Swiss festival invites jailed Iranian film maker Panahi

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Jailed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has been invited to join the jury at an international film festival in Switzerland in March that focuses on human rights, the organisers said on Thursday.

Last month, an Iranian court sentenced Panahi, 50, widely known outside Iran for award-winning films such as "The Circle," "Crimson Gold" and "Offside", to six years in jail for alleged subversion, his lawyer said.

The International film festival and forum on human rights (FIFDH) said in a statement that it had invited Panahi to the jury alongside Spanish author Jorge Semprun, Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi, actress and director Zabou Breitman, and a Swiss filmmaker Jean Stephane Brin.

"In any case the FIFDH will reserve his seat on the jury," it added in a statement.

The festival in the Swiss city of Geneva on March 4 to 13, which will be held for the ninth time, has a tradition of acting as a forum for freedom of speech and dialogue through the movie world.

Last year it went ahead with screening an Iranian film, Hana Makhmalbaf's "Green Days", set in Iran's controversial election period in 2009, as its opening movie a few days after Panahi was arrested.

The screening was followed by a debate that included actress Golshifteh Farahan and the lawyer Karim Lahidji, head the Iranian League for the Defdence of Human Rights.

Iranian authorities accused Panahi of making an "anti-regime" film about the unrest which rocked Iran after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

© 2011 AFP

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