'Unacceptable': Iran jails French man for eight years on spying charges

More than a dozen Western Citizens are currently detained in Iran.

Benjamin Briere

Benjamin Briere Source: SBS

A French man has been sentenced to eight years in jail on spying charges by an Iranian court, his Paris-based lawyer said Tuesday, denouncing his trial as a sham and the accusations as baseless.

Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in May 2020 while travelling in Iran after flying a helicam - a remote-controlled mini helicopter used to obtain aerial or motion images - in the desert near the Turkmenistan-Iran border. 

He was also given an additional eight-month sentence for propaganda against Iran's Islamic system, his lawyer Philippe Valent said in a statement.

"This verdict is the result of a purely political process that is ... devoid of any basis," he said.

Criticising the trial, which began on Thursday, as a "masquerade", he added that Mr Briere "did not have a fair trial in front of impartial judges" and noted he had not been allowed to access the full indictment against him.

Mr Briere is one of more than a dozen Western citizens held in Iran, described as hostages by activists who say they are innocent of any crime and detained at the behest of the powerful Revolutionary Guards to extract concessions from the West.

Nationals of all three European powers involved in the talks on the Iranian nuclear programme, Britain, France and Germany, are among the foreigners being held.

"It is not tolerable that Benjamin Briere is being held a hostage to negotiations by a regime which keeps a French citizen arbitrarily detained merely to use him as currency in an exchange," Mr Valent added.

He said Mr Briere was "more and more weakened" by a hunger strike that has now lasted a month.

Iran's judiciary was not immediately available for comment.

France's foreign ministry said the verdict was "unacceptable", adding that it was in regular contact with Mr Briere.

In recent years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual citizens and foreigners, mostly on charges related to espionage and security.

2 min read
Published 26 January 2022 at 6:51am
Source: AFP,SBS