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Franco-Iranian documentary filmmaker still forbidden to leave country, her footage held

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has written twice to the French Foreign Ministry about the Iranian government's refusal to allow Mehrnoushe Solouki, a documentary filmmaker with dual French and Iranian nationality, to leave Iran."Solouki is in a very difficult situation," the press freedom organisation said. "The Iranian authorities are saying nothing. While no charges were brought against her after she spent a month in detention, the Tehran prosecutor's office is awaiting a green light from the Intelligence Ministry to allow her to leave the country."

RSF added: "Her family had to mortgage their home to pay the large amount of bail demanded for her release. This is just one more source of pressure on the young filmmaker, along with the many summonses for questioning that she has received since being set free."

Reached by telephone, Solouki told RSF she did not understand the Iranian authorities' silence. "Why am I still being held in Iran?" she asked. "Did I not have the consent and politically sacrosanct authorisations of Iranian officials to come to Iran, to spend time here and to film? Have I broken any rule, any of the rules laid down by the Islamic Republic? After an investigation, the Iranian judicial authorities concluded that I had not."

Solouki added: "So why I am still being held in Iran? Am I guilty because I have French citizenship? Because I resided in Canada? Because I am an independent filmmaker? The Interior Ministry's silence does not bode well."

Solouki went to Iran in December 2006 to make a documentary about the events that followed the 1988 cease-fire between Iraq and Iran. She was arrested on 17 February 2007 and was held in Evin prison. She was finally released on 19 March after payment of 100 million toumen (80,000 euros) in bail. Her French passport was returned to her after the French embassy intervened. But the Iranian authorities are still holding all her notes and a portable hard drive containing 70 per cent of the footage she shot.

In a separate case, Parnaz Azima, a journalist with Iranian and American dual nationality who works for Radio Free Europe in the Czech Republic, is also currently barred from leaving Iran. She was accused of "propaganda against the Islamic Republic" and working for a "counter-revolutionary" radio station after she travelled to Iran in January to see her ailing mother. She has avoided imprisonment by paying the equivalent of 411,000 euros in bail but the authorities are holding on to her passport and she must remain in Iran until her trial takes place.

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