Iran: who are the four French nationals who are still detained?

Iran who are the four French nationals who are still

A real relief for France. The French Benjamin Brière and the Franco-Irish Bernard Phelan, imprisoned in Iran, were released this Friday, May 12. “They will be in Paris tonight where they will be welcomed by their families,” announced Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. She also thanked “all those who worked for their release”.

Benjamin Brière, 37, was arrested in May 2020 after taking “photographs of prohibited areas” with a recreational drone in a natural park. Sentenced to eight years in prison for “espionage”, he was acquitted in mid-February but kept in detention. He is now greatly diminished by a hunger strike. As for Bernard Phelan, 64, he was imprisoned in October 2022 while traveling as part of his tourism consultant activity. He was charged with offenses against national security. Despite these releases, four French nationals remain detained in Iran. The Express takes stock.

Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris, arrested in May 2022

More than a year that Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris are detained in Iran. On May 7, 2022, this French couple was arrested and charged with espionage. Those close to Cécile Kohler denounce an “arbitrary and baseless” imprisonment and say they have “no information on the file” or on “a possible trial”.

Cécile Kohler, 38, and her companion Jacques Paris, 69, had left to discover Iran during the Easter holidays. They were only supposed to stay ten days. Originally from Alsace, Cécile Kohler is a professor of modern literature and a trade unionist. Jacques Paris is a former mathematics teacher at a Nantes high school.

Both are being held in Evin prison in northern Iran. According to their support committee, Cécile Kohler has had “only three contacts with her family in one year, the last dating from April 17”, during calls of “a few minutes” and “under close surveillance”. His relatives say they are very worried about his health.

Louis Arnaud, arrested in September 2022

Louis Arnaud, a 35-year-old French tourist, was arrested in Tehran on September 28, 2022. Detained in Evin prison, “he suffers from extremely harsh conditions of detention […] which makes us fear very serious physical and psychological repercussions”, alerted a support committee.

Louis Arnaud is a consultant in the banking sector. Passionate about travel, he is “a simple citizen of the world, who wishes to explore it to better know and understand it”, assured his parents in a press release. They added that their son “did not take part in any demonstration, nor expressed ideas hostile to Iran, its government or Islam” which could have motivated an arrest.

Louis Arnaud had started traveling again in July 2022, after the Covid-19 pandemic. His plan was to travel around the world via Italy, Greece, Turkey, Georgia and Armenia, arriving in Iran in early September.

Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in June 2019

Fariba Adelkhah, a Franco-Iranian researcher, was arrested in Iran in June 2019. Sentenced to five years in prison for undermining national security, she was finally released in February 2023. She is still banned from leaving the country.

Aged 64, Fariba Adelkhah is an anthropologist and specialist in Shiism and post-revolutionary Iran. Director of research at the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) in Paris, she was arrested with her companion, Roland Marchal, also a researcher. The latter was released in March 2020.

For months, France has denounced these arbitrary detentions, which it considers to be “State hostages”. Other European countries and human rights defenders accuse Tehran of detaining dozens of foreigners in a strategy to blackmail the West. “We will continue to work for the release of our nationals […] and of all European nationals, unfortunately too many, detained without reason in Iran”, assured Catherine Colonna.