Paris recovers two Frenchmen released by Iran and pledges to work for the release of others

Paris recovers two Frenchmen released by Iran and pledges to work for the release of others
Paris recovers two Frenchmen released by Iran and pledges to work for the release of others

The Breuer and Vaillant plane, a Falcon 900 belonging to the “Airlik” company specialized in medical air transport, landed at Le Bourget airport near Paris at around 7:30 on Friday night (17:30 GMT), according to an AFP journalist.

The release of Brier, 37, and Phelan, 64, who were arrested in Mashhad, northeastern Iran, came after a series of warnings issued by those close to them, against the background of the health status of each of them and the conditions of detention in the second largest city in the Islamic Republic.

The French are among about 20 foreigners being held by the Iranian authorities on charges often related to national security. However, those concerned deny these accusations, and activists believe that taking foreigners as “hostages” is part of Tehran’s strategy to extract political concessions from Western countries.

Five Frenchmen are still being held in Iran, four of whom are behind bars, in addition to an Iranian researcher who was released from prison but is banned from leaving the country.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said that Brierre and Phelan were released for humanitarian reasons and have been “under medical care since their release from prison.”

Iranian official media confirmed the release of the French “for humanitarian considerations”.

Phelan, 64, was a travel and tourism consultant based in Paris. He was arrested in early October 2022 in Mashhad and has since remained in prison.

Last March, his family reported that the Iranian judiciary had sentenced him to six and a half years in prison on charges of transmitting information to an enemy country.

The family denied these accusations, noting that Phelan was arrested for taking pictures of a mosque that was set on fire and a number of policemen and sending them to a British newspaper.

The family warned that the health of the 60-year-old had deteriorated in prison. He declared a hunger and drink strike in January to protest his arrest, but halted his movement at the request of his family, who feared for his life.

As for Brier, he was arrested in May 2020 while traveling in Iran, which the family confirmed was for tourism purposes. Later, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage, before he was acquitted on appeal last February, according to his family.

Brier, who was detained like Vilan in Wakilabad prison, also began a hunger strike in late January to protest the conditions of his detention.

Brier’s lawyer, Philippe Valan, confirmed to AFP that his client’s release made it possible to “avoid a catastrophe” because he was facing an “actual danger” at the health level.

For her part, his sister Blandine told AFP, “We avoid a tragedy. Words cannot describe the joy that overwhelms us.”

As for Phelan’s sister, Caroline-Masse Phelan, she said in a statement sent to Agence France-Presse, “We cannot express the amount of comfort we feel,” noting that he needs a period of recovery and will refrain from giving press interviews in the coming period.


– Relief in Paris and Dublin –


Shortly after announcing their launch, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked, via Twitter, “everyone who contributed to this issue,” considering that Brierre and Villan were “free, finally,” and able to “meet their loved ones.”

For its part, Dublin expressed its “satisfaction”.

“Bernard Phelan has been released from prison in Iran and is now on his way back to his family,” Foreign Minister Michael Martin said. “The past seven months have been a very difficult experience for Bernard and his family and I am glad and relieved that it is now over.”

For her part, Colonna confirmed that she spoke on Friday to her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and assured him of “France’s determination to ensure that other French citizens still detained in Iran regain their full freedom.”

For his part, Amir Abdollahian considered that the “French view, which is characterized by realism” towards the Islamic Republic, is a “positive step”, according to what was reported by the official news agency “IRNA”.

Colonna stressed in a press conference with her Irish counterpart on the sidelines of a meeting of European foreign ministers, “We will continue to work as Europeans for the release of our citizens, who are four, and all European citizens, and unfortunately there are a large number of them, who are detained without reason in Iran.”

Four Frenchmen, whom the French Foreign Ministry earlier described as “hostages”, are still being held in prisons in Iran.

The four arrested are trade unionists Cécile Koller and Jacques Paris, who were arrested on May 7, 2022 during a “tourist” visit, according to those close to them, while Tehran accused them of “collaborating and colluding to undermine the country’s security,” and Louis Arnaud, who works in the consulting field, was arrested on September 28. September in Tehran without knowing what his charge was, in addition to a fourth Frenchman whose identity Paris did not reveal.

As for the Iranian-French researcher Fariba Adelkhah, Tehran released her last February from Evin prison, where she was serving a five-year prison sentence issued in 2020 on charges of undermining national security, charges she had previously denied.

Tehran arrested the researcher at the Institute of Political Sciences in Paris in 2019 and sentenced her to five years in prison the following year, before releasing her and placing her under house arrest in October 2020. In January 2022, the judiciary announced that Adelkhah would be returned to prison for her “violation.” conditions of house arrest.

She has not yet been allowed to leave Iran since her release in February.

The foreign detainees are a subject of intense attraction between Iran and Western countries, noting that many of them hold dual citizenship, which is not recognized by Tehran, which deals with them exclusively as Iranians.

Western criticism of Tehran intensified against the background of this issue in the wake of the protests that erupted in the Islamic Republic in mid-September 2022 after the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, after she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran on the grounds of not adhering to the strict rules of dress.

Tehran announced the arrest of a number of foreigners, some of whom were later released, in connection with these protests, which were supported by Western countries.