The list of foreign nationals detained in Iran is growing. On Wednesday February 24, Iranian lawyer Saïd Dehghan announced that a French citizen, a “Young tourist” named Benjamin, is incarcerated in Vakilabad prison, in Mashhad (North-East) since May 2020.

“We did not have access to the file, but the charges against our client are contradictory and unfounded”, explains to World Me Dehghan. The Frenchman was arrested “With a GoPro camera and, not a drone, as has been mentioned elsewhere”, specifies the lawyer. Confirming his arrest, the French foreign ministry said the young man had received “Consular visits”.

About ten other foreign and binational citizens are currently detained in Iran, including a Frenchwoman. Franco-Iranian anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah has been under house arrest in Tehran since October 2020, after sixteen months of detention in Evin prison in the capital. Sentenced to five years in prison for “Collusion with a view to undermining national security” and “Propaganda” against the Islamic Republic – accusations she refutes – the researcher is placed under electronic surveillance, with a ban on moving beyond a perimeter of 300 meters around her home.

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On Wednesday, before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, denounced what he likened to ” hostage taking “ from Iran and again demanded its “Final release” by Fariba Adelkhah.

Money change

The latter’s companion, the French researcher Roland Marchal, arrested at the same time as her in June 2019, had been released after nine months of detention, in March 2020. His release had coincided with that of the Iranian engineer Jalal Rohollahnejad , who had been imprisoned in France for almost a year. The Iranian was arrested at the request of Washington, which accused him of having violated the sanctions on the importation of sensitive electronic systems into Tehran.

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Iran has often in the past used foreign and binational detainees – whose binationality it does not recognize – as bargaining chips in its talks with the West. The latest example, Anglo-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, arrested in 2018 for spying for Israel, was released in November 2020, in exchange for three Iranians, imprisoned in Thailand for a failed assassination attempt. against Israeli diplomats in 2012.

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