Iran’s judiciary on Tuesday ordered one of the country’s leading filmmakers to serve a six-year prison sentence from ten years ago that was never carried out. The order came as the government tried to silence criticism amid mounting economic turmoil and political pressure.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi announced that award-winning director Jafar Panahi, arguably Iran’s best-known film director, would be serving his six-year prison sentence he served in 2011 on charges of producing anti-government propaganda. said it should have been performed at the time.
Although Panahi had been given a travel ban in recent years, the sentence was never enforced and he continued to make underground films, which were released abroad with great success. He has won several festival awards, including the Berlin Golden Bear for 2015 Cab. His rebellious films about poverty, sexism, violence and censorship in the Islamic Republic have long angered the government.
Authorities detained Panahi last week when he visited Tehran’s prosecutor’s office to inquire about the cases of fellow detained dissident filmmakers, Mohamad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad. Rasoulof and al-Ahmad were arrested earlier this month on charges of undermining the country’s security by expressing opposition on social media to the government’s violent crackdown on unrest in the south-west of the country.
Panahi’s detention in Iran’s Evin Prison has drawn widespread criticism from human rights groups, shedding light on a wave of repression affecting not only the country’s celebrated film industry, but activists and protesters as well.
The government has escalated its crackdown on dissent to prevent Iran’s currency, the rial, from crashing. Talks to reinvigorate Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers remain stalled, and despair over the economic crisis is mounting and sanctions easing is not in sight.