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Iran says acclaimed filmmaker must serve six-year sentence

Jafar Panahi is perhaps Iran’s best-known film director.

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Jafar Panahi (AP Photo, File)

Jafar Panahi (AP Photo, File)

Jafar Panahi (AP Photo, File)

Iran’s judiciary has ordered one of the country’s leading filmmakers to serve a six-year prison sentence from a decade ago that had never been enforced.

Masoud Setayeshi, a spokesman for Iran’s courts, announced that award-winning director Jafar Panahi, perhaps Iran’s best-known film director, would fulfil his six-year term handed down in 2011 on charges of producing anti-government propaganda, a final verdict that he said should have been implemented at the time.

The order came as the government seeks to silence criticism amid growing economic turmoil and political pressure.

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Jafar Panahi poses with his Silver Berlin Bear award at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in 2006 (Arnd Wiegmann/AP)

Jafar Panahi poses with his Silver Berlin Bear award at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in 2006 (Arnd Wiegmann/AP)

Jafar Panahi poses with his Silver Berlin Bear award at the 56th Berlinale International Film Festival in 2006 (Arnd Wiegmann/AP)

Although Panahi was banned from travelling for the past years, the sentence was never enforced and he continued to make underground films, which were released abroad to great acclaim.

He has won multiple festival awards, including the 2015 Berlin Golden Bear for Taxi.

His defiant films about poverty, sexism, violence and censorship in the Islamic Republic have long angered the government.

Authorities detained him last week when he visited the Tehran prosecutor’s office to inquire about the cases of fellow detained dissident filmmakers, Mohamad Rasoulof and Mostafa al-Ahmad.

Rasoulof and al-Ahmad were swept up earlier this month on charges of undermining the nation’s security by voicing opposition on social media to the government’s violent crackdown on unrest in the south west.

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Evin Prison (Alamy/PA)

Evin Prison (Alamy/PA)

Evin Prison (Alamy/PA)

Panahi’s detention in Iran’s Evin Prison has drawn widespread criticism from rights groups, shining light on a wave of repression hitting not only the country’s celebrated cinema industry but also activists and protesters.

The government has escalated its crackdown on dissent as it seeks to prevent the Iranian currency, the rial, from crashing.

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