Detained Iranian director started hunger strike - website

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has started a hunger strike in prison, his wife told an opposition website on Tuesday.

Iranian director Jafar Panahi poses with his Silver Berlin Bear after the awarding ceremony at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 18, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/Files

Panahi, winner of many international awards and a supporter of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi in last year’s disputed presidential election, was arrested in early March along with his wife and daughter.

His family was later released and he was taken to Tehran’s Eving prison.

“I was taken to interrogation on Sunday morning and was accused of having filmed the cell which is a sheer lie,” Panahi told his family by telephone on Tuesday, according to Jaras website.

“I have not eaten or drunk since Sunday morning and will continue to do so until these demands are met,” Jaras quoted him as saying.

Panahi has demanded access to his lawyer, to receive visits by his family, and an unconditional release until a court hearing is held, his wife Tahereh Saeedi told Jaras.

The director backed Mousavi in last year’s disputed presidential election, which plunged the Islamic Republic into months of political turmoil.

Iran’s pro-reform opposition says the vote was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election but the authorities portrayed the huge opposition protests that erupted after the vote as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the clerical establishment.

Thousands of opposition supporters were detained after the election. Most of them have since been freed but more than 80 people have been jailed for up to 15 years. Two people put on trial after the election have been executed.

Two senior French ministers last week called on Iran to free Panahi so he can take up an invitation to sit on the jury of the Cannes film festival which opened on Wednesday.

Panahi won the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes film festival, for his 1995 movie, “White Balloon”.

Editing by Angus MacSwan