The National Society Of Film Critics (NSFC) has added its voice to protests over the arrest early last month of Iranian director Jafar Panahi.

The NSFC says Panahi, the 1995 Cannes Camera d’Or winner for The White Balloon and 2000 Venice Golden Lion winner for The Circle, has been held without charge since security forces entered his home and arrested him on March 1.

Panahi was a prominent supporter of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi during the 2009 presidential election.

“We strongly urge the Iranian government to release this great film-maker whose works have won international awards, earned the accolades of critics all over the world, and delighted and inspired audiences everywhere they are shown,” a statement from the NSFC said.

“We mean our protest to affirm the value of artistic expression and the power of cinema to transcend political differences and unite people in their common humanity. We hope that the Iranian government will recognise the wisdom of releasing Mr Panahi immediately in the name of these universal principles.”

The statement was signed by more than 50 of the most prominent US critics including Roger Ebert, Amy Taubin, David Denby, Kenneth Turan, Todd McCarthy, Lisa Schwarzbaum and David Ansen.