Iranian sales agent Katayoun Shahabi and filmmaker Mehran Zinatbakhsh, who were arrested in Tehran in September on charges of collaborating with the BBC Persian Service, were released on bail on Wednesday, Iranian news agency INSA has reported.
A message on the Free Katayoun Shahabi Facebook page, run by friends and supporters, confirmed the news.
“Katayoun was released on bail earlier this morning. We are delighted to let you know that she is fine and quite strong,” read a message posted on site.
“Thanks to all for your efforts. This would not have been possible without your support and your dedication to human rights and your sense of responsibility toward your colleagues living under totalitarian regimes,” it continued.
Sales agent Shahabi was arrested in mid-September alongside six filmmakers on charges of working illegally for the BBC Persian Service.
Iranian authorities said the filmmakers had “painted a black picture of Iran and Iranians” by supplying the BBC with reports.
The BBC said the detainees were not on staff or retainer but rather independent filmmakers whose works had screened on the service.
Vilified by the regime of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamadinejad, the BBC Persian Service’s satellite signal is routinely scrambled from inside Iran.
News of Shahabi’s arrest alongside Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, Nasser Saffarian, Hadi Afarideh, Sahnam Bazdar, Mohsen Shahrnazdar and Mehrdad Zahedian in September, followed by the detention of Zinatbakhsh a few days later, prompted protests from the film world across the globe.
Most recently, a number of cinema bodies have gathered behind a campaign to boycott Iran’s Cinema Vérité documentary festival in early November.
“There is no question in our minds that the rising pressure from the film community all over the world and particularly our latest extremely successful Festival Vérité campaign helped Katayoun a lot with respect to both her release and also her treatment in jail and even possible future repercussions for her life and career… Of course, she now awaits trial,” added the statement on the Free Katayoun Shahabi Facebook page.
According to reports from the Iranian Documentary Filmmakers Association (IDFA), Saffarian and Shahrnazdar were also released on bail on October 8.
Mirtahmasb, co-director alongside Jafar Panahi of This is not a Film, remains behind bars. The film documenting a day in the life of Panahi was smuggled out of Iran on a USB stick hidden in a cake. It premiered at Cannes this year.
Iran’s filmmaking community have come under increasing pressure from the country’s totalitarian regime following the popular 2009 Green Wave uprising, protesting the alleged, rigged re-election of President Ahamadinejad.
Panahi was initially arrested while attending a graveside commemoration service for Neda Agha-Soltan, a young protestor whose shooting dead by a state militiaman during the Green Wave protests was captured on video and broadcast worldwide on the Internet.
Re-arrested in March 2010, Panahi was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence as well as a 20-year ban on making films, travelling aboard or speaking to the press at the end of 2010.
The director, who has yet to start the jail term, lost an appeal against the sentence in mid-October.
Fellow director Mohammad Rasoulof saw a similar six-year sentence reduced at a hearing in early October.
“Ramin Parchami, an actor who supported the Green movement and was arrested in a post-election protest last February, is also in jail…
We should continue our support to release ALL of them,” concluded the statement by the Free Katayoun Shahabi committee.