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French national Benjamin Brière remains in Iranian prison despite acquittal, lawyer says


French citizen Benjamin Briere is still being held in an Iranian jail despite his recent acquittal by an appeals court, his lawyer said Thursday.

Briere was imprisoned in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years in prison on espionage charges.

Activists say he is one of several foreigners held by Iran for taking hostages to force concessions from the West.

His lawyer in France, Philippe Valent, said in a statement to AFP that Iran’s appeals court had cleared his client of all charges and ordered his release on February 15.

But he said Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, a branch of the security forces tasked with maintaining the regime, “have imprisoned him despite his acquittal”.

“His release was prevented at the last minute,” he told AFP.

Brielle, who is being held in Vakilabad prison in the eastern city of Mashhad, is continuing a hunger strike he started a month ago, and Valente said he was “exhausted physically and mentally”.

Valente, who has previously described espionage allegations against his clients as “fictional,” said on Thursday that their “arbitrariness” was “obvious”.

He said Brielle’s family demanded his immediate release.

“The situation is completely incomprehensible,” his sister, Blandine Briere, told AFP.

She said the family had decided not to report the appeals court decision sooner in the hope that the matter would be resolved quietly.

Another Iranian detainee, Bernard Phelan, a 64-year-old French-Irish citizen who has been held since Oct. 1, suspended his hunger strike in January at the request of his family. Including refusing to drink water, the family feared for his life.

Ferran, a Paris-based travel consultant, was arrested while traveling and is currently being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.

Iran has accused him of anti-government propaganda, a charge he denies.

Six French nationals are currently being held in Iran.

The French foreign ministry has repeatedly denounced Iran’s so-called “hostage diplomacy”.


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