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Jafar Panahi, a very talented Iranian filmmaker, among Armenian audience probably known for “The Circle” film /which criticized the treatment of women under Iran’s islamist regime/. So, Panahi was due to take his place on the Cannes jury this year. Instead, he is incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after he was arrested for unspecified crimes. The festival has left an empty chair on the jury panel.

A few days ago Jafar Panahi has begun a hunger strike to protest at his imprisonment in Iran, BBC reports. The Iranian authorities have clamped down on dissenting voices since protests flared over the disputed elections last June. Mr Panahi’s family were released shortly after their arrest, but he was taken to Evin prison in Tehran. His wife, Tahereh Saeidi, told the opposition Rahesabz website the director had informed her by phone that he had stopped eating and drinking until he was allowed to see his family and a lawyer.

Latest declaration of Jafar Panahi since the beginning of his hunger strike.

I hereby declare that I have been subject to ill treatment in Evin prison. On Saturday May 15, 2010, prison guards suddenly entered our cell, n… See more° 56. They took us away, my cell mates and I, made us strip and kept us in the cold for an hour and a half.

Sunday morning, they brought me to the interrogation room and accused me of having filmed the interior of my cell, which is completely untrue. Then they threatened to imprison my entire family at Evin and to mistreat my daughter in an unsafe prison in the city of Rejayi Shahr.

I have eaten and drunk nothing since Sunday morning, and I declare that if my wishes are not respected, I will continue to abstain from drinking and eating. I do not want to be a rat in a laboratory, victim of their sick games, threatened and psychologically tortured.

My wishes are :
– The possibility to contact and see my family, and the complete assurance that they are safe.
– The right to retain and communicate with an attorney, after 77 days of imprisonment.
– Unconditional liberty until the day of my judgment and the final verdict
– Finally, I swear upon what I believe in, the cinema : I will not cease my hunger strike until my wishes are satisfied.
My final wish is that my remains be returned to my family, so that they may bury me in the place they choose.

Source : Centre culturel Pouya, Tuesday, May 18, 2010, Cannes