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Famous Iranian filmmaker on hunger strike

Famous Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was arrested in March, has started a hunger strike, according to opposition news website Jaras. Panahi openly supported the opposition movement after last summer’s disputed elections.

In a letter published on the website, he said he began his strike on Sunday after “prison guards left me and some other prisoners naked in the cold for an hour and a half last Saturday.” He said he was accused of recording the conditions in his cell on video, an accusation he has denied.

He has also demanded to see his family and choose a lawyer after 77 days of not having one.
“I swear upon the cinema that I believe in, I will not give up my hunger strike until my demands are met,” he said in his letter.

Panahi was one of the judges on the Cannes Film Festival now underway in France. His seat was left empty in the festival, replaced with a piece of paper that said his name.

A source close to the Panahi family told GlobalPost that they have been banned from talking to the media.

Many figures outside the country have called for Panahi’s release, including two French ministers and Hollywood filmmakers, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.

Another Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami is competing at Cannes with the film “Certified Copy.” Kiarostami called for Panahi’s release on Tuesday, and Juliette Binoche, the French actress staring in Kiarostami’s film, broke down in tears as a journalist informed her of Panahi’s hunger strike.

Panahi had previously won the Camera d’Or prize at Cannes for his 1995 movie “White Balloon.”