Iran says arrested French nationals helped foment protests

State TV says the two were under surveillance and met with people who organised protests by teachers.

The arrests has prompted condemnation by the French foreign ministry
The arrests prompted condemnation by the French foreign ministry [File: Lisi Niesner/Reuters]

Tehran, Iran – Two French nationals arrested by Iranian intelligence last week helped organise protests by teachers, Iran’s state television has said.

The broadcaster aired a four-minute report on Tuesday that provided more details about the arrest of the two earlier in May, which prompted condemnation by the French foreign ministry.

Showing CCTV footage and images, the report said 37-year-old Cécile Kohler and her 69-year-old husband were being monitored by Iranian intelligence from the moment their plane touched down in Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport in the early hours of April 28.

“According to the intelligence ministry, they entered using tourist visas, but monitoring their movements and meetings showed other intents,” the report said.

“The intelligence ministry observed them in organisation and coordination meetings with people who regard themselves as members of the Teachers Guild Union.”

State TV showed a group picture taken after an alleged meeting, as well as clips purporting to show how some of those present participated in teachers’ protests or spoke with foreign outlets. It also aired a few seconds of secretly recorded voices, which allegedly belong to the arrested individuals, who are discussing the protests.

State television also showed how the two were arrested on the night of May 7 in a taxi that was taking them to the airport to leave the country.

News of their arrest came days later, coinciding with a visit by Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator for talks aimed at restoring Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The two French nationals’ stay in Iran coincided with protests by teachers, which have broken out periodically in several cities over the past year. The teachers are demanding the implementation of a law recently passed by parliament that would, among other things, improve their pay.

The French citizens are both members of the FNEC FP-FP, a major trade union representing teachers and education-related staff.

A day after the arrests were publicised, the French foreign ministry summoned Iran’s envoy to Paris. It condemned the “baseless arrest” and called for the release of its citizens.

There are now four French nationals under arrest in Iran. The other two are Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in January on spying charges, and dual national Fariba Adelkhah, who was sentenced to five years in 2020 over national security charges but is now living under house arrest.

Source: Al Jazeera