The Iranian government has released internationally-renowned Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi from prison. He had been held since his arrest in Tehran in early March, allegedly for planning to make a movie about the violence following last June's disputed presidential election.
Prominent human rights activists, journalists, artists, and filmmakers around the world stood in solidarity with the filmmaker by condemning his detention and calling for his release. He was released on $200,000 bail on May 25.
Mr. Panahi's release is welcome news. However, deep concerns remain about the significant increase in arbitrary arrests in Iran over the last years and the lack of a fair and transparent judicial process.
The international community is also concerned about the conditions that Iranian prisoners of conscience are forced to endure, including long periods of solitary confinement, illegal pressure tactics, and an inadequate level of medical attention.
Student and human rights activist Majid Tavakoli was arrested on December 7, 2009, after delivering a speech for Student Day. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, during a trial that was held without the presence of a lawyer or a jury.
According to his family, Mr. Tavakoli started a hunger strike (both food and water) in Evin prison on May 22, and he was recently transferred to solitary confinement. Majid Tavakoli's family is extremely concerned for his well-being and believes that his hunger strike puts his life at risk.
The United States has urged Iran to release all those who have been unjustly detained for exercising their right to express their views peacefully. This call is especially urgent in light of the recent summary executions that have taken place in Iran and the announcement that more death sentences have been upheld against Iranian citizens who have been convicted of security crimes after unfair judicial proceedings.
In his Nowruz address to the Iranian people this year, President Barack Obama said it is the commitment and responsibility of the United States to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings: "That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families."
President Obama said America stands for "a future where Iranians can exercise their rights," and urged the Iranian government "to meet its international responsibilities, while respecting the dignity and fundamental human rights of its own people."