Panahi freed?

Let's not get our hopes up, but it looks like Jafar Panahi, the great Iranian director imprisoned in Tehran on bogus charges since March 1, might be released -- on bail, at least. This report in Agence France-Presse says that a hearing will take place on Saturday.

Which is good news, because things were looking pretty bad for a while. A week or so ago, after Panahi thanked the Cannes Festival for inviting him to participate in the Jury, the Iranian authorities punished him by increasing his (apparently already open-ended anyway) "sentence" by several months. Panahi then declared on Sunday that he was beginning a hunger strike. Now it seems like the authorities might be budging a little as the international spotlight intensifies and an increasing number of prominent groups and people voice their outrage.

This is no time to let up on the pressure, however. The Boston Society of Film Critics, for one, added to its petition of a couple of months ago a request to Hillary Clinton and the State Department to intervene diplomatically (Clinton had done so successfully last year when American-Iranian writer Roxana Saberi, co-screenwriter of her fiance Bahman Gobhadi's recently released "You Don't Know About Persian Cats," was incarcerated in a similar case). If you'd like to petition them as well, check in here.

(My thanks to John Simpson for the tips).

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