EImprisoned in Iran for more than a year and a half for « espionage », Benjamin Brière began a hunger strike to protest against his conditions of detention, his family announced to Agence France-Presse on Monday (December 27th). This 36-year-old Frenchman has always presented himself as a tourist and denies accusations of espionage.
According to his lawyer, he was arrested in May 2020 for taking « photographs of prohibited areas » with a recreational drone in a natural park in Iran. « 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 to AFP. Benjamin Brière is being held in Valikabad prison, in Mashhad, in northeastern Iran. « He sees no change in his situation, » lamented his sister.
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According to his sister, Benjamin was arrested while he was crossing Iran as a tourist, during a long trip in a campervan that began in 2018. Last May, his Iranian lawyer had indicated that his client 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 Blandine Brière.
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.