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Iran Court Confirms Sentence for French Tourist in Spying Case

Iran Court Confirms Sentence for French Tourist in Spying Case

Wednesday, 29 June, 2022 - 07:00
France says Benjamin Briere is just a tourist - Saeid Dehghan's Twitter account/AFP/File

An Iranian appeals court has confirmed an eight-year, eight-month sentence for jailed French national Benjamin Briere on spying charges, one of his Iranian lawyers, Saeid Dehghan, tweeted on Tuesday.


Briere was arrested in Iran in May 2020 after flying a helicam - a remote-controlled mini-helicopter used to obtain aerial or motion images - in the desert near the border with Turkmenistan. He was sentenced in January.


Briere has consistently denied any wrongdoing and France has called on Iran to release him, Reuters reported.


His French lawyer, Philippe Valent, said Briere’s case was being “instrumentalized” by the Iranian authorities.


“It’s shocking and dramatic,” he told AFP, adding that the verdict coincided with the resumption of negotiations between Tehran and Western powers on Iran’s nuclear program.


The French foreign ministry at the time described the verdict as “unacceptable,” saying Briere was a “tourist.”


“We ask the French, American and British authorities to make the liberation of hostages a pre-condition for the resumption of negotiations,” Valent said.


Meanwhile, AFP reported that Iran is holding two Iranians who worked as translators for a French couple detained in May, the mother of one of the detainees has said, urging their immediate release.


French teachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris have been under arrest in Iran since early May and stand accused by authorities of seeking to stir labor protests.


Anisha Asadollahi and her husband, Keyvan Mohtadi, who worked as translators for the French couple during their stay in Iran, have also now been under arrest for over one and a half months, Anisha Asadollahi’s mother said.


The mother, who did not give her first name, said in a video message published by Netherlands-based Radio Zamaneh that Asadollahi and Mohtadi had been arrested in a raid on their home in Tehran on May 9.


“It has been 48 days since my daughter’s arrest, 33 of which she spent in solitary confinement. Her husband Keyvan has had a similar fate,” she said in the video message, a translated version of which was published by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).


“Why? For being translators for two French nationals?” she asked.


The mother appealed to all who feel a sense of responsibility to join her in demanding their immediate and unconditional release. “Prison is not where translators and writers belong,” she added.


Kohler and Paris are the latest Western citizens to be detained in Iran in what activists say is a deliberate policy of hostage-taking by the country to extract concessions from the West.


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