French National Benjamin Briere Tried on National Security Charges in Iran
Ten months after being arrested in Iran, a French national has been charged with “espionage” and “propaganda against the state,” the Center for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
Benjamin Briere, 35, appeared at a hearing in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad on March 7, 2021, and presented his last defense on March 15.
“The reason this French tourist was charged with espionage: taking photos in prohibited zones,” tweeted one of his lawyers, Saeid Dehghan, on March 15. “The reason why he was charged with espionage: Asking on social media why the hijab is compulsory in the Islamic Republic and why it is voluntary in other Islamic countries.”
Identified at the time only by his first name and nationality, Briere’s arrest and denied access to counsel for his nine months of detainment made international headlines on February 24, 2021.
“His name is Benjamin and he is being held at the Vakilabad Prison in the city of Mashhad,” Dehghan told Reuters at the time. “He was detained nine months ago and he faces contradictory and false charges.”
Briere was arrested after flying a drone in the desert in Iran near the Turkmenistan-Iran border, a person close to his family told the news agency.
Australian travel bloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King were similarly detained in Iran for several months in 2019 after being charged with illegally taking photos in restricted areas.
According to Dehghan, Briere does not know the political situation in Iran, and therefore being in possession of photography gear, which is common for tourists in other countries, does not warrant him being charged with endangering Iran’s national security.
Another Iranian-born French citizen has been detained in Iran since June 2019 and remains unable to leave the country: Anthropologist Fariba Adelkhah has been serving a five-year sentence on trumped-up national security charges since June 2019.
She was released from prison in Tehran with an electronic ankle bracelet on October 3, 2021, but the government continues to deny her permission to return to her home in Paris.
Adelkhah’s partner and fellow Sciences Po Uiversity colleague, French national Roland Marchal, was released in Tehran and allowed to return to Paris as part of a prisoner swap deal in March 2020.
At least 13 dual and foreign nationals or Iranian citizens who’ve lived and worked abroad were known to be imprisoned in Iran as of March 2021, according to research by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI)