Iran arrests two more French citizens as West increases pressure

Paris says the number of French nationals detained by the Islamic Republic of Iran has reached seven with the arrest of two other citizens.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Saturday that Paris was concerned about the incarceration of two other citizens, urging Tehran to release them immediately and provide them with consular protection.

Colonna made the comments in an interview with Le Parisien newspaper about the new development, which would apparently lead to a further deterioration in mutual relations.

She reminded the Islamic Republic of its international obligations, warning that if the purpose of the detention is to blackmail France, “then it can’t work”.

Human rights organizations accuse Iran of a systematic policy of taking hostages more than four decades since the first period of the Islamic republic after the Shah’s ouster, beginning with the 1979-1981 siege of the United States Embassy in Tehran.

Tehran denies any hostage-taking policy and insists that all foreigners are arrested and tried according to legal process. However, he has frequently shown willingness to conduct prisoner exchanges and has participated in exchanges in the past.

Most trials of political cases, including of detained Western detainees, are held without due process and based on trumped up charges.

In his interview, however, Colonna noted that his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian “has pledged to respect the visitation rights of prisoners.”

His comments come a day after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed solidarity with Iran freedom-seeking protesters calling their movement a “revolution.”

French President Emmanuel Macron meets with Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist, on November 11, 2022

In early October, France accused the Iranian regime of “dictatorial practices” after Iranian state television aired the forced confessions of two French nationals arrested in the Middle Eastern country ruled by its 83-year-old anti-Western leader. , Ali Khamenei.

In the forced confession video, one of the two French nationals – Cécile Kohler – said they were in Iran to “prepare the ground for revolution and the overthrow of the regime of Islamic Iran”.

Iranian state media is infamous for alleged prisoner confessions in politically motivated cases. These prisoners are held without due process and generally cannot choose their own lawyer.

Friday, the newspaper Le Figaro reported that the two nationals had been arrested before the start of anti-government protests in September over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Ties between France and Iran have soured recently as efforts to relaunch the 2015 nuclear talks in which Paris is one of the parties have stalled.

Following the uprising against their authoritarian government after Amini’s murder in police custody, the EU imposed new sanctions on Iran following similar moves by the US, Canada and Britain .

A new round of European Union sanctions for human rights abuses by Tehran will also be approved at a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, two diplomats told Reuters.

The sanctions target 31 individuals and entities and would freeze their assets and impose travel bans.

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

The identity of the two new French detainees was not immediately clear, but Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris, whose confessions were broadcast earlier on Iranian television, have been arbitrarily detained since May 2022.

Fariba Adelkhah, is another woman of Iranian origin, who was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to five years in prison for “undermining national security”. Benjamin Brière was also arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years and eight months for espionage, without due process.