Protesters gather in Paris to support French nationals detained in Iran

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Protesters have gathered at the place du Trocadero in Paris in a show of support for French nationals detained in Iran amid rising diplomatic tensions between the two countries. 


The detainees have been described as “hostages” by the French government, which confirmed in November that seven French nationals were being held.

Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah was arrested in June 2019 and condemned to five years in prison for posing a threat to national security. Benjamin Brière was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years in prison for spying. Two members of a teachers’ trade union, Cécile Kholer and Jaques Paris, were also arrested in May 2022.  

French-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan, who was detained in October, last week suspended a dry hunger strike at the request of his family. 

The parents of a sixth French detainee, Louis Arnaud, revealed his identity for the first time on Thursday. Arnaud was arrested on September 28 while visiting Iran as a tourist and has since been held in Tehran’s Evin prison, his parents Jean-Michel and Sylvie said in a statement to AFP on January 26. 

“Our son is neither a plotter, nor a spy, nor a villain,” they said, describing his arrest as “arbitrary”. 

>> ‘Simple citizen of the world’ among French detainees in Iran 

The protests in Paris come amid rising tensions between Iran and France.

The French government in October condemned what it described as a staged confession video from Kholer and Paris that aired on Iranian television as “shameful, revolting, unacceptable and contrary to international law”. 

>> Iran airs ‘staged’ confession video of French couple accused of spying

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna’s office in November spoke of a “long and difficult” phone call with her Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who slammed European “interference” in his country’s internal affairs. 

In telephone talks on Wednesday, January 25, Colonna demanded the “immediate release” of the French detainees.  

They are among two dozen foreigners who are being held in Iran, according to activists.  

In October, France called on its citizens to “leave the country as soon as possible”, citing the risk of arbitrary arrest.

“All French visitors, including dual nationals, are exposed to a high risk of arrest, arbitrary detention and unfair trial,” the foreign ministry said on its website.

“This risk also concerns people making a simple tourist visit,” it added. 

Arrests have been increasing amid a wave of protests that erupted on September 16 following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini. Two of the French nationals being held were thought to have been detained prior to the start of the protests.

The EU on Monday announced a further round of human rights sanctions on Iran and called on Iranian authorities to cease arbitrary detentions and release all those illegally detained.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)