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Jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi begins hunger strike, opposition website says

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker and opposition supporter Jafar Panahi has gone on a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment, according to a pro-reform Iranian website.

The Rahesabz website quoted the filmmaker's wife, Tahereh Saeidi, as saying the director stopped eating and drinking Sunday morning.

She said he plans to continue his protest until he is allowed to see his family, meet with a lawyer and be set free pending trial.

Saeidi told the website she spoke to her husband by phone Tuesday.

Panahi was taken into custody in early March. A state prosecutor has said the detention is not political and that the filmmaker is suspected of committing unspecified offenses.

Panahi supported the opposition in Iran's presidential election last June. He was briefly detained last summer when he visited the graves of victims of Tehran's postelection unrest and was later banned from traveling abroad.

Iran has banned several of his films.

At the Cannes Film Festival, fellow Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami on Tuesday called for Panahi's release and spoke about the challenges of making films in Iran.

"The fact that a director is imprisoned is in and of itself intolerable," Kiarostami said at the French festival. "When one puts an artist in prison, it's art itself that's imprisoned, and for that reason, we must act."