French Benjamin Brier and his Irish citizen, Bernard Phelan, arrived in Paris on Friday evening, hours after Iran released them on humanitarian grounds, amid a welcome from Paris, which confirmed work to release others.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Brierre and Phelan were released for humanitarian reasons, and they have been “under medical care since their release from prison.” Iranian official media confirmed the release of the French “for humanitarian considerations”.
Brierre and Vaillant’s plane landed at Le Bourget airport, near Paris, at around 7:30 on Friday night, local time, according to a journalist at the Agence France-Presse.
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 backdrop of the health status of each of them and the conditions of detention.
The two Frenchmen are among nearly 20 foreigners detained by the Iranian authorities, on charges mostly 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.
5 Frenchmen are still detained in Iran, 4 of whom are behind bars, in addition to an Iranian researcher who was released from prison, but is prohibited from leaving the country.
Phelan, 64, was a travel and tourism consultant, based in Paris. He was arrested in early October 2022 in Mashhad. And his family reported, last March, that the Iranian judiciary had sentenced him to six and a half years in prison, on the basis of his accusation of transmitting information to an enemy country.
Phelan’s family denied these accusations, noting that he 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 Phelan’s health had deteriorated in prison, and he declared a hunger and drink strike in January. protesting his arrest, but he stopped it at the request of his family, who feared for his life.
As for Brier, he was arrested in May 2020, while he was traveling in Iran, and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. He was convicted of espionage, before being acquitted on appeal, last February, according to his family.
Brier, who like Phelan was detained in Wakilabad prison, also began a hunger strike in late January; Protesting the conditions of his arrest.
Brier’s lawyer, Philippe Valan, confirmed to “Agence France-Presse” that the release of his client allows “avoiding a catastrophe”; Because he was facing an “actual danger” at the health level.
For her part, his sister, Blandine, told Agence France-Presse: “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 she 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. .
After announcing their release, French President Emmanuel Macron thanked, via Twitter, “everyone who contributed to this issue,” considering that Brier and Phelan were “finally free” and able to “meet their loved ones.”
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, who are still detained in Iran, regain their full freedom.”