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Iran jails French national for 8 years over alleged spying

  • January 25, 2022

A court in Iran on Tuesday jailed French national Benjamin Briere for 8 years after it found him guilty of espionage.

Lawyers for the 36-year-old claim the process was flawed and the charges were politically motivated.

Why was Briere put on trial?

Briere, a tourist who had been traveling around Iran,  was arrested in May 2020 after flying a helicam — a remote mini helicopter that can capture motion images or snapshots — in the desert near Iran’s border with Turkmenistan.

In addition to his sentence on spying charges, he was also sentenced to 8 months in prison for “propaganda” against Iran’s Islamic system.

Briere’s Paris-based lawyer, Philippe Valent, denounced the trial as a “masquerade.”

“This verdict is the result of a purely political process that is… devoid of any basis,” said Valent. The lawyer added that Briere “did not have a fair trial in front of impartial judges,” noting he had not been allowed to see the indictment against him in full.

One of his Iranian lawyers, Saeid Denghan, told Reuters news agency that Briere is “shocked” by the sentence and that he intends to appeal the verdict within 20 days.

Briere is among more than a dozen Western citizens held In Iran. Activists, who describe them as hostages, claim they are detained at the behest of the powerful Revolutionary Guards to extract concessions from the West.

Background of nuclear talks

The trial comes as the United States and parties to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal seek to revive the pact after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the agreement in 2018.

Among those being held are nationals from all 3 European powers involved in the talks on Tehran’s nuclear program — Britain, France and Germany.

They include a British-Iranian worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran on strongly contested spying charges.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family links her imprisonment to a $530 million (€470 million) debt dispute between Tehran and London over a shipment of Chieftain tanks that was never delivered.

rc/wd (AFP, Reuters)

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