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Martin Scorsese, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Others call for Release of Behrouz Ghobadi

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by Anthony Kaufman
November 29, 2012 10:22 AM
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Amnesty International and other human rights organizations are putting the pressure on Iran to release the brother of exiled Kurdish-Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi. On November 4, 2012, Behrouz Ghobadi was arrested by plainclothes forces in Iran. Since then, he has had no contact with his family and has not been able to see an attorney. Iranian officials continue to withhold information about his whereabouts or the conditions in which he is being held. In a new petition started by Amnesty, several prominent filmmakers and actors have now joined the Ghobadi family in calling for Ghobadi's release, including directors Martin Scorsese, Paul Haggis, and Guillermo Arriaga, and actors James Franco and Liam Neeson.

According to a report on Amnesty's site, Behrouz Ghobadi is believed to be held in the Ministry of Intelligence detention center in Sanandaj on suspicion of national security-related "offenses" although the exact charges brought against him remain unclear. His family and lawyer have not been able to visit him, despite their repeated requests. According to his family, Behrouz Ghobadi is not affiliated with any political group. He manages a shop in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and has worked as the production manager for some of his brother’s films. He has also directed a few short films himself. Not only does he have a new-born son, but he is the sole support of his elderly mother in Iran.

The full petition is available at the link. So far, several other prominent film industry professionals have signed it, including Cameron Bailey and
 Piers Handling of the Toronto International Film Festival.

In October, it was announced that Martin Scorsese would produce and help develop Ghobadi's New York-set film, "60 Seconds of Us," which is said to center around “the conflict between Iranians and Kurds."

Scorsese is the most high profile name on the list, signing off on the petition which "stand[s] in solidarity with our fellow filmmaker and condemn his imprisonment.  We call on Iran’s government to guarantee Behrouz Ghobadi’s safety and to release information about his whereabouts and detention.  We also strongly urge Iranian authorities to free him immediately and without condition."

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