Thursday, June 09, 2011

Iran: Iran Mission to the United Nations Accepts 21,000-Plus Petition in Support of Iranian film director Jafar Panahi

SOURCE Amnesty International

On behalf of Amnesty International, Oscar-winning filmmaker Paul Haggis delivered a stack of 21,000 petition signatures into the hands of an officer of the Iran Mission to the United Nations on Wednesday, demanding the lifting of a harsh sentence against acclaimed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi. Haggis was part of an Amnesty International delegation of Hollywood luminaries, including Iranian-born actress Nazanin Boniadi, film producer and actress Trudie Styler, and actor Griffin Dunne, along with the former imprisoned Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari, who joined human rights activists for a demonstration and symbolical renaming of the street outside the Mission offices as "Azadi Square" (Freedom Square).

The petition was signed by Hollywood notables including directors Martin Scorsese, Edward Zwick, Ridley Scott, Phillip Noyce, Ron Howard, Paul Mazursky, and actors Sean Penn, Sir Patrick Stewart, Susan Sarandon and dozens of other bold-faced names.

The delegation, led by Amnesty International USA Executive Director Larry Cox, was told at first that they would not be allowed to directly hand the petition papers to anyone at the Mission, located on an upper floor of a Manhattan office building at 622 Third Avenue.

Haggis then told a protocol officer who came to the lobby that he would not leave unless the Mission accepted the petitions. Police were called and after some tense negotiations, the protocol officer agreed to allow Haggis to hand over the foot-high box of paper petitions once they were inspected.

While journalists, who were kept outside, filmed the situation through the lobby windows, Haggis, who wrote the screenplay for Best Film winners Million Dollar Baby and Crash, held up individual petition papers and signed postcards (picturing Panahi), while the unnamed protocol officer inspected each. Finally, Haggis was allowed to pick up the box of materials and hand them to the officer, as activists outside applauded.

"We've done what we came to do – the Iranian government has received our petitions ---- and we hope this will have an impact and change the situation for Jafar Panahi," said Haggis, as he emerged from the Mission lobby.