No counterpart to the release of French prisoners by Iran, according to the minister
French Minister Catherine Colonna said she pleaded with Iranian authorities for the release of two prisoners on the basis of their poor health.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said her country had paid nothing for the release of Frenchman Benjamin Briere and Franco-Irishman Bernard Phelan, who had both been prisoners in Iran.
Asked Tuesday by a journalist from France 2 to find out if there had been a counterpart to the release of the two men, who were released on May 12 from a prison in the city of Mashhad, in the north-east of the country, Colonna said “there was none,” adding that she wants to clarify.
“We pleaded a lot at different levels with the Iranian authorities given their state of health which was extremely degraded,” she added. According to Colonna, both men were ill.
Iran had kept the two detained for alleged espionage, but France called the arrests arbitrary and likened them to hostage-taking.
Brière, who is now 37, was arrested in May 2020 after piloting a mini remote-controlled helicopter in northeast Iran, near the border with Turkmenistan. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and had already served three in Iranian prisons when he was released, despite his acquittal by an appeals court. Colonna described his long-term detention as “unacceptable”.
Phelan, who is 64, was arrested in October last year and sentenced to six and a half years in prison last month for “providing information to another country”.
“Fortunately, they got out of that ordeal,” Colonna said Tuesday. The Iranian authorities described the release of Brière and Phelan as “humanitarian action”.
The foreign minister added that the French authorities were now working for the “unconditional” release of four Frenchmen still detained in Iran – Cécile Kohler, Jacques Paris, Louis Arnaud and a Frenchman whose identity has not been made public. . A similar statement was made by French President Emmanuel Macron on May 12, when he announced the release of the two prisoners, he added that the authorities were continuing their efforts to free the “compatriots” still held in Iranian prisons.
Kohler and Paris were arrested on May 7, 2022, during what their relatives described as a “tourist trip.” Arnaud, a 35-year-old consultant, was arrested on September 28 in the capital Tehran as he traveled to the country for sightseeing.
The fourth Frenchman’s anonymity is at the request of his family, Colonna said on Tuesday, adding he was not a secret agent.