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Iran: Frenchman Benjamin Brière tried on Thursday for “espionage” and “propaganda”


TRIAL – Detained for a year and a half in Iran, Benjamin Brière will be tried on Thursday for “espionage” and “propaganda against the regime”. The 36-year-old Frenchman was arrested while using a drone in a natural park in the country.

He faces the death penalty. Benjamin Brière, a Frenchman detained in Iran for more than a year and a half, will appear before a revolutionary court on Thursday to answer charges of espionage and propaganda against the regime, his lawyer announced in a press release on Wednesday.

Arrested in May 2020, he had started a hunger strike at the end of December to protest against his conditions of detention and is today “very weakened”, according to Me Philippe Valent. “There are about twenty or even thirty of them in a cell where suddenly there is no privacy, etc. Some of his fellow prisoners are also on death row, so there is a very difficult atmosphere to live in”, detailed his sister, Blandine Brière, at TF1 in December.

Arrested for using a drone in a natural park

Benjamin Briere will appear “after more than a year and a half of detention, without having access to the accusation file, nor to any basic right to defend himself. Exhausted, he knows nothing either of the conditions in which this will take place hearing”, denounces his lawyer.

The 36-year-old Frenchman has always presented himself as a tourist and denies accusations of espionage. He was arrested for taking “photographs of prohibited areas” with a hobby drone in a natural park in Iran. “Benjamin was taking drone photos of his trip like a tourist who wants to take photos for his pretty Instagram account and give news to his family. It stops there”, assured TF1 his sister last May. He is being held in Valikabad prison, in Mashhad (north-east).

“Benjamin Brière has always vigorously denied the absurdity of the accusations against him, he is neither a spy nor a threat to Iranian internal security and never has been”, assured Me Valent, adding that his client hoped “a declaration of innocence and repatriation to France in order to be able to rebuild, physically and psychologically”. He will appear “after more than a year and a half of detention, without having access to the accusation file, nor to any basic right to defend himself. Exhausted, he knows nothing either of the conditions in which this will take place hearing”, he continued

Benjamin Brière, political prisoner?

Iran is holding more than a dozen Western passport holders, mostly dual nationals, in what NGOs condemn as a hostage-taking policy designed to extract concessions from foreign powers. Benjamin Brière is the only known Westerner detained in Iran who does not have an Iranian passport.

Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah has been detained since June 2019 and was sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison for breaches of national security. Under house arrest since October 2020, she was reincarcerated in mid-January, accused by Iranian justice of having violated the rules of her house arrest. Her companion Roland Marchal, also a researcher, had been detained with her before being released in March 2020, after Paris freed the Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, whose extradition the United States was seeking for violating American sanctions against the ‘Iran.

“It’s the usual method of accusing foreign citizens of spying on the Iranian regime, detaining them and using them as bargaining chips”, assured Me Valent to TF1 in May 2021. In recent years, the Islamic Republic has carried out several exchanges of detainees with foreign countries.

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Iran and several countries (France, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, China, plus the United States indirectly) relaunched talks in November to save the 2015 agreement (“JCPOA”), supposed to prevent Tehran to acquire atomic weapons, a particularly burning issue that is scrutinized throughout the region.

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