Frenchman illegally imprisoned in Iran

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This is news that will not improve Franco-Iranian relations, already quite strained by the crisis on the nuclear issue. A French citizen has been detained in Iran for nine months, we learned in a tweet from his lawyer on Wednesday.

Benjamin *, 35, was arrested in January 2020 while in the Islamic Republic as a tourist to tour the country in a van. He was apprehended by Iranian security forces in a desert area on the border between Iran and Turkmenistan. He has since been held in Mashhad’s Vakilabad prison in the northeast of the country. “He is in good health and has been able to talk to his family on the phone three times,” explains a relative. He had been on vacation in Iran for several months and remains illegally detained because the authorities have not provided the slightest file or explanation for his detention. ”

Daily Le Figaro announced Friday, in an article, that a Franco-Iranian citizen had recently been arrested in Iran for using a drone in the desert. It appears in all likelihood that it is the same person and that she only has French nationality. Iran also holds another French national, researcher Fariba Adelkhah, who also has an Iranian passport. Sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison for “collusion with a view to attacking national security” and “propaganda against the political system” of the Islamic Republic, she was released from Evin prison in Tehran on October 3. 2020 and has since remained under house arrest at his home in the Iranian capital, under the control of an electronic bracelet.

Iranian spy diplomat

The fate of these two French nationals detained in Iran appears to be linked to that of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat from the Embassy of the Islamic Republic in Vienna, sentenced on February 4 to twenty years in prison by a Belgian court for “attempts terrorist assassination ”and“ participation in the activities of a terrorist group ”. Considered an agent of the Iranian intelligence services acting under diplomatic cover, this 49-year-old man planned in 2018 an attack in France against a rally of the People’s Mojahedin, one of the main opposition groups to the Islamic Republic.

His sentence to the maximum penalty, in the absence of the main defendant, angered Tehran, which considers that it is “not legitimate because of the diplomatic immunity” which it is supposed to enjoy. Brussels considers, on the contrary, that the Iranian agent, arrested while on vacation in Germany, was therefore not on an official mission and did not benefit, as such, from diplomatic protection.Proof of the sensitivity of this case, which goes beyond the simple judicial framework, the Iranian diplomat-spy threatened during his interrogation the Belgian authorities of reprisals on the part of unidentified groups if he were to be convicted, according to a document from Belgian police revealed by Reuters news agency.

The Islamic Republic has made a specialty of monetizing Western detainees on its soil in exchange for Iranian nationals imprisoned abroad. French researcher Roland Marchal was thus released by Iranian justice in March 2020, at the same time as France released Jalal Rohollahnejad, an Iranian engineer who was detained in Nice for having circumvented, according to Washington, US sanctions against Tehran and whose the United States demanded extradition.

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