Two more French citizens held in Iran, foreign minister confirms

France demands immediate release of the latest detainees, along with the five others who were previously arrested.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, speaks during a press conference
French foreign minister Catherine Colonna called for the immediate release of the latest detainees, along with the five others who were previously arrested [Hussein Malla/AP Photo]

Two more French citizens have been detained in Iran, bringing to seven the number of people from France held in the Middle Eastern country racked by weeks of protests, Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said, as she called for their immediate release and access to consular protection.

“We are worried about two other compatriots and the last verifications show they are also detained,” Colonna told daily newspaper Le Parisien on Saturday.

“It is more important than ever to remind Iran of its international obligations. If its aim is blackmail, then it cannot work,” she said.

“My Iranian counterpart, with whom I had a long difficult conversation, has committed to respecting this right of access. I expect it to be realised.”

The news came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron met four prominent Iranian women campaigners at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron last month said France “stands by” the protesters in Iran and expressed his “admiration” for women and youths demonstrating in the country.

The Iranian foreign ministry said that his comments were “meddlesome” and served to encourage “violent people and lawbreakers”.

Iran has witnessed large protests since mid-September when Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police. The 22-year-old woman was detained for not allegedly not complying with the country’s dress code for women. Tehran has blamed the United States and Israel for one of the biggest protests since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

French detainees

The identity of the two new detainees was not immediately clear.

The others held include French-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in June 2019 and later sentenced to five years in prison for undermining national security, allegations her family has strongly denied.

Another, Benjamin Briere, was arrested in May 2020 and later sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison for espionage, charges he has rejected.

French teachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris were also detained in May this year, accused of seeking to stir labour unrest during teachers’ strikes.

There is also a “Frenchman who was passing through” Tehran, France has said.

The French government last month advised its citizens visiting Iran to “leave the country as soon as possible”.

Protests and crackdowns

The protests against Amini’s death have pushed the EU to follow the US, Canada and UK in imposing sanctions on Iran.

A new round of EU sanctions on human rights will be approved at a foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday, two diplomats told Reuters.

The sanctions would see 31 designations for human rights violations that would target individuals and entities covering asset bans and travel freezes, they said.

France has also proposed new designations for those who sell drones to Iran and to sanction people involved in the export of electronic components for drones, one of the diplomats said.

Also on Saturday, Iran’s judiciary indicted 11 people over the killing of a Basij security force member during the weeks-long unrest, state media reported.

News agency IRNA said some of the 10 men and one woman were charged with “corruption on earth”, which can be punishable by death, for crimes that led to the death of a member of the pro-government Basij volunteer militia on November 3 in Karaj near Tehran.

Meanwhile, a jailed Iranian freedom of speech campaigner who is on a hunger strike and “in critical condition” will start refusing water after being denied medical leave, his brother said on Saturday.

Hossein Ronaghi, 37, was arrested days after speaking out against the crackdown on protests during which hundreds of people have been arrested and dozens died. However, no official casualty figures are available.

“Hossein said in a call from prison that he’s recently had seizures several times,” his brother Hassan wrote on Twitter.

Source: News Agencies