Detained in Iran for more than a year and a half for « espionage », Frenchman Benjamin Brière began a hunger strike to protest against his conditions of detention, his family announced on Monday.
Benjamin Brière, 36, who has always presented himself as a tourist and denies accusations of espionage, was arrested in May 2020 for having taken « photographs of prohibited areas » with a recreational drone in a natural park in Iran , according to his lawyer.
« He sees no change in his situation »
« Benjamin started the hunger strike on December 25 because he was not allowed to call us for the Christmas holidays, but also to denounce the mistreatment he has suffered for twenty months, » said his sister Blandine. Benjamin Brière is being held in Valikabad prison, in Mashhad, in northeastern Iran. « He sees no change in his situation, » she lamented. According to Benjamin Brière, he was arrested in May 2020 while crossing Iran as a tourist, during a long trip in a campervan that began in 2018.
Last May, his Iranian lawyer indicated that Benjamin Brière would be tried for “espionage” and “propaganda” against the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Espionage carries the death penalty in this country. The French Foreign Ministry deemed these accusations « incomprehensible ». “He is being held hostage for no reason. It’s completely illegal, we don’t know anything. Benjamin needs more French diplomacy, ”added Benjamin Brière.
Concessions from foreign powers
Iran retains more than a dozen Western passport holders, most of them binational, which NGOs condemn as a hostage-taking policy designed to obtain concessions from foreign powers. In recent years, the Islamic Republic has carried out several exchanges of detainees with foreign countries. Benjamin Brière is the only known westerner detained in Iran who does not have an Iranian passport.
Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah has been detained since June 2019 and was sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison for attacks on national security. She has been under house arrest since October 2020. Her companion Roland Marchal, also a researcher, had been detained with her before being released in March 2020, after Paris had freed the Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, whose the United States claimed the extradition for violating US sanctions against Iran.