Iran to try French citizen for espionage

Iran will bring to justice a French citizen he detained last year on espionage charges, his lawyer said on Sunday, a crime carrying the death penalty.

French citizen Benjamin Brière, in his thirties, was arrested in Iran in May 2020 on suspicion of piloting a drone and taking photos in a prohibited area. Saeid Dehghan, a human rights lawyer who represents him, said on Twitter Sunday that Iranian prosecutors had confirmed that his client would be tried on two counts of espionage and “propaganda against the system.”

“The prosecutor prepares the indictment and sends it to the Revolutionary Court,” Dehghan told the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

In the years since former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal with the country and reimposed sanctions, Iran has detained several foreigners and dual citizenship.

Iran frequently uses such cases as diplomatic bargaining chips or to lobby for the release of Iranian prisoners abroad. In March last year, the French government secured the release of a national security scholar, Roland Marchal, as part of a prisoner exchange.

Brière’s lawyer said in March that his client faced a propaganda charge because he asked in a social media post why the headscarf was compulsory for women in Iran but optional in other countries in Iran. Muslim majority.

A conviction for propaganda can carry a prison term of three months to one year. Espionage can be punished with death in Iran; Dehghan, the lawyer, told the BBC in March that Brière faced a long prison sentence if convicted.

His sister, Blandine Brière, described the charges against his brother as unfounded and said he was just a French tourist in Iran.

To mark the anniversary of Brière’s detention on May 26, the French weekly Le Point published an open letter from Blandine Brière to French President Emmanuel Macron, launching a desperate appeal for his help.

“Mr. President, it is after a long year of waiting, worry and incomprehension that I am writing to you, to call on you to help free Benjamin who is today cut off from his own life, from those who love it, and the rest of the world, ”wrote Blandine Brière on Facebook, echoing the letter.

“A year since Benjamin and we, his relatives, have been through hell,” said Blandine Brière, describing the Iranian authorities as having deliberately concealed the affair. “We are powerless in the face of a scenario as unreal as it is incomprehensible,” she added.

France’s foreign ministry said in March that Benjamin Brière, who is being held at Vakilabad prison in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, was entitled to consular protection and that his embassy in Tehran was in “regular contact” with him.

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