NEWS: Iran
A court sentences a Frenchman to 8 years in prison for espionage.

January 26, 2022, 7:32 am

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.

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