An Iranian court has sentenced a Frenchman to eight years in prison for espionage, his Paris-based lawyer has said, denouncing his trial as a sham and the charges as baseless.
Benjamin Brière, 36, has been detained in Iran since May 2020, when he was arrested after piloting a helicam – a mini remote-controlled helicopter used to obtain aerial or moving footage – in the desert near the Turkmen border- Iranian.
Currently on hunger strike, he was also sentenced to an additional eight months in prison for propaganda against the Iranian Islamic system, his lawyer Philippe Valent said in a statement on Tuesday.
“This verdict is the result of a purely political process which is … devoid of any basis,” he said.
Calling the trial, which began on Thursday, a “charade”, he added that Brière “did not have a fair trial before impartial judges” and noted that he had not been granted access to the full indictment against him.
In recent years, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.
Briere’s trial came as the United States and parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, including France, attempted to revive the pact after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew his country of the agreement in 2018.
“It is not tolerable that Benjamin Brière is hostage to the negotiations of a regime which arbitrarily keeps a French citizen in detention simply to use him as a bargaining chip”, added Valent.
He said Briere was “increasingly weakened” by a hunger strike that has now lasted a month.
In the past, Tehran has shown itself ready to release Western nationals in exchange for the freedom of Iranians detained abroad.
Briere is the only such Western detainee held in Iran who does not also hold an Iranian passport.
Earlier this month, Iran reincarcerated French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2020 but recently placed under house arrest. France demanded the immediate release of Adelkhah.
Her French academic colleague Roland Marchal, who was detained with her, was released in March 2020 after France freed Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who faced extradition to the United States for violating sanctions imposed on Iran by Washington.