London: An online petition that is expected to signed by filmmakers and actors from across the world calls for the release of dissident Iranian director Jafar Panahi who has been sentenced to six years in prison and banned for directing films for 20 years.
The online petition claims that "Jafar is innocent and his only crime is wishing to continue to freely exercise his profession as a film-maker in Iran ... Through this sentence inflicted upon Jafar Panahi, it is manifestly all of Iranian cinema which is targeted", The Guardian reported.
Panahi won the Camera d`Or award at the Cannes film festival in 1995 for "The White Balloon" and the Golden Lion prize at the 2000 Venice festival for "The Circle". His other movies include "Offside" and "Crimson Gold".
A group of European film organisations, including the Cannes film festival and the magazine Cahiers du Cinema, prepared the petition.
It has sought the signatures of writers, filmmakers and actors, "as well as every man and woman who loves freedom and for whom human rights are fundamental".
Jafar Panahi is a critic of the Ahmadinejad regime who supported the protests that followed 2009`s disputed Iranian elections, the media report said.
He was convicted of "propaganda against the system".
The Iranian director in his plea to the court said: "My imprisonment and that of those I work with symbolises the kidnapping by those in power of all artists in the country."