A total of five French people are currently being held in Iran, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced on public radio on Tuesday October 11. France Interwhereas, until now, only four were officially recognized by Paris.
“I will have this afternoon the Iranian Foreign Minister to demand once again the immediate release of all our compatriots who are detained in Iran, there are currently five of them”, said Catherine Colonna.
So far, France officially had four of its nationals detained in Iran. The oldest is the Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in June 2019 and then sentenced to five years in prison for undermining national security. Anthropologist, she is the author of numerous publications on Iran and Afghanistan. Released with an electronic bracelet in September 2020, she has been imprisoned again since January 2022.
Benjamin Brière, blogger and traveler
The second Frenchman imprisoned in Iran is Benjamin Brière, arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison for espionage. This blogger reportedly flew a drone near Iran’s border with Turkmenistan. He is also accused of having questioned the compulsory wearing of the hijab for Iranian women on social networks. Coming from Lyon, he traveled by van through Europe and Asia, documenting his trip on Instagram.
Iran is also detaining Cécile Kohler, a leader of the Fnec-FP-FO teachers’ union, and her spouse Jacques Paris, arrested last May. They are accused of being “entered the country with the aim of unleashing chaos and destabilizing society”. Last week, Tehran released a video presented as “confession” Cécile Kohler, who speaks in French and claims to be an agent of the DGSE, and Jacques Paris. This had led to a virulent reaction from Paris, which had denounced a “unworthy staging” and mentioned for the first time “state hostages”.
A Frenchman arrested during protests linked to the death of Mahsa Amini
Finally, Tehran had announced at the beginning of October the arrest of nine foreigners, including a Frenchman, in the wave of protest which is currently shaking the country since the death of Mahsa Amini. But Paris had not so far confirmed the arrest of one of its nationals.
On Friday, the Quai d’Orsay called on French people passing through Iran to “leave the country as soon as possible given the risk of arbitrary detention to which they are exposed”.
More than twenty nationals of Western countries, mostly dual nationals, are detained or stranded in Iran, which NGOs condemn as a policy of hostage-taking to obtain concessions from foreign powers.
EU sanctions against Iran
In addition, Catherine Colonna indicated that the European Union had agreed on sanctions against those responsible for the repression in Iran. “The EU yesterday agreed on the plan of the technical teams on a package of sanctions. This will be validated at ministerial level on Monday and at the European Council in the middle of next week”, said the minister. She had mentioned last week a “assets freeze and travel ban” for those responsible for the repression.
The protest movement is not weakening in several regions of Iran despite the deadly repression of the demonstrations triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after her arrest by the morality police nearly four weeks ago. The crackdown on protests has killed at least 95 people since September 16, according to NGOs.