On Friday, the French Foreign Minister announced that Iran had released Mr Two Frenchmen are arrested In separate cases in Tehran prisons, they are now in the process of returning to France.
Shortly after announcing their release, French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that his country would continue “to work for the return of our citizens who are still detained in Iran.”
Minister Catherine Colonna said that Brennan Phelan, who also holds Irish citizenship, and Benjamin Brier were released from prison in the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, and “they are on their way to France.”
The French are among more than 20 foreigners imprisoned in Iran. Activists see them as hostages being held as part of a deliberate strategy by Tehran to extract concessions from the West.
Phelan, 64, is a travel consultant based in Paris. He was arrested in October in Mashhad and has been in prison since. In April he was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on national security charges, which his family vehemently denied. Phelan’s family had said his health had deteriorated dramatically in detention. Phelan announced a hunger and drink strike in January to protest his arrest, but stopped his movement at the request of his family, who feared he might die.
Brier, 37, was arrested when he was traveling inside Iran in May 2020, and was later sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage. Then an appeals court acquitted him, but he remained in prison in a situation his family described as “incomprehensible”. Brier, who was detained like Vilan in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad, also declared a hunger strike to protest the conditions of his detention.
Four other French citizens, whom the French Foreign Ministry earlier described as “hostages”, are still being held in prisons in Iran. Colonna said she had spoken earlier Friday to her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and affirmed “France’s determination to ensure that other French nationals still detained in Iran regain their full freedom.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said that the two ministers spoke by phone about the release of Brier and Phelan, which it described as a “humanitarian act.”