A French vacationer is about to be prosecuted for espionage in Iran after allegedly taking photos in a desert area final yr.
Explorer Benjamin Briere, 35, was arrested in Iran final Could and accused of flying a drone in an space prohibited by the navy.
In addition to spying, he was on Wednesday — the anniversary of his preliminary arrest — charged by a courtroom in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, with “propaganda in opposition to the system” in reference to alleged social media posts questioning Iran”s obligatory veiling legal guidelines for ladies, his lawyer Saeid Dehghan confirmed on Sunday.
Dehghan added that two different costs in opposition to his consumer – “alcoholism” and “corruption on earth”, the latter of which one of the vital severe offences in Iran’s Islamic penal code and may carry the demise penalty – had been dropped.
Distraught household name on Macron to step in
Briere has been held at Vakilabad Central Jail in Mashhad for the previous 12 months. On Wednesday, his sister Blandine Briere revealed an open letter to French President Emmanuel Macron urging the federal government to intervene.
“We as his family members have been going by hell,” she wrote. “This arrest and costs are baseless; I am certain all your providers know. Our brother, son, uncle, is clearly not an agent of any intelligence service.”
Benjamin, she mentioned, had “a thirst for discovery and journey” and had purchased a van two years in the past, embarking on journeys by Finland, Turkey and Montenegro earlier than arriving in Iran to discover the nation in December 2019.
Since being arrested, she mentioned, her brother had been permitted simply 4 cellphone calls to his household, who had been rendered “helpless” by the lack of understanding from Iranian authorities.
“Mr. President,” she wrote, “I’m writing to you as we speak asking you to make use of all of the diplomatic means vital to acquire his liberation, I’m writing to you as we speak to beg you to make this detention cease.”
Fears over presumably politically-motivated arrest
Briere’s household additionally raised issues that the 35-year-old was getting used as a “negotiating instrument” and was “on the centre of a battle between international locations, which clearly escapes him”.
The arrest and detention of this French nationwide has come at a time of heightened rigidity between the Islamic Republic of Iran and European powers.
France is one in every of a six-country group, along with the USA, Britain, China, Russia, and Germany, holding talks with Iran over restoring the Joint Complete Plan of Motion: the 2015 nuclear deal that former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
Since then, harsh sanctions have been re-imposed on Iran, crippling the nation’s economic system.
The Islamic Republic has been accused of utilizing overseas detainees as bargaining chips for cash and affect with Western international locations, and to place strain on them: a technique Tehran formally denies.
Final month British-Iranian twin nationwide Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to a sixth yr in jail on costs of “propaganda in opposition to the regime” after her earlier five-year sentence on spying costs, which she has at all times denied, got here to an finish.
Different European residents detained in Iran on espionage costs embody the retired British-Iranian father-of-two Anousheh Ashouri, Swedish-Iranian physician Ahmadreza Jalali, Swiss-Iranian businessman Kamal Alavi and aged Iranian-Austrian twin nationwide Massud Mossaheb.
Spying costs in opposition to French anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah have been dropped final yr however she stays below home arrest in Tehran and isn’t allowed to go away the nation.
Overseas nationals have additionally been used to facilitate prisoner exchanges prior to now. Final yr Iran and France swapped French researcher Roland Marchal for Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad. In November, British-Australian tutorial Kylie Moore-Gilbert was launched in alternate for 3 Iranians imprisoned for his or her half in a bomb plot in Thailand.