Amnesty: Ghaemmaghami's visa rejection 'bizarre'

Director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (L) and Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh (Getty)
Director Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami (L) and Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh (Getty)

Amnesty International has thrown its weight behind calls to let an Iranian film director attend a festival she was invited to.

Immigration authorities denied Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami a visa, saying she didn't appear to be a "bona fide visitor to New Zealand, genuinely intending a temporary stay for a lawful purpose".

Ghaemmaghami's film Sonita won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and is a finalist in two categories at next month's Doc Edge International Documentary Festival.

Amnesty International's Margaret Taylor says it's a bizarre decision, considering Ghaemmaghami has been touring the world to promote her film, without trouble.

"Roksareh is actually currently in the US, travelling to Canada, onto Germany and then onto New Zealand. Why is New Zealand declining a visa when the US has no problem?"

Ms Taylor says wants the decision to be reviewed.

"Roksareh's freedom of expression, the director's freedom of expression would seem not to be respected by the New Zealand Government. We find that situation entirely bizarre."

Organisers of the festival yesterday sent an open letter to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, and have demanded an apology.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern has also written to Mr Woodhouse, calling Ghaemmaghami's rejection "crazy".

A petition calling for Ghaemmaghami to be allowed to enter New Zealand had 756 signatures this morning.

Immigration area manager Michael Carley said on Tuesday the decision was still under review and Ghaemmaghami would be contacted this week.

"Immigration NZ is aware of her intended travel dates and will ensure all aspects of the review are completed and the outcome communicated to her well before these dates," he said.

There won't be any further comment until the review has been completed and Ghaemmaghami has been told the outcome."