A French tourist who has been in an Iranian cell since May last year will appear before the country’s Revolutionary Court on Thursday on suspicion of espionage and anti-Iranian propaganda. His lawyer announced this today.
Benjamin Brière (36) had taken images with a drone in an Iranian nature reserve and spoke out on social media against the obligation for women to wear a hijab.
Brière (36) was on a big trip in which he traveled through Asia in a van, just like he did before in Scandinavia, the Balkan countries and Turkey. He shared his travel adventures via Instagram. But his trip came to an abrupt end when he was arrested in May 2020 after he flew a helicam – a drone capable of taking aerial images – in a desert near the border between Iran and Turkmenistan.
The man is charged with espionage for “taking pictures in a prohibited area” and for propaganda against Iran for criticizing the obligation for Iranian women to wear a headscarf on social media. Espionage may carry the death penalty.
Brière denies the charges of espionage and has always claimed that he was merely a tourist in Iran. “Benjamin Brière has always vehemently denied the charges against him. He is neither a spy nor a threat to Iran’s internal security and never has been,” said his lawyer Philippe Valent.
The lawyer added that his client hoped for “a declaration of innocence and repatriation to France” so that he can begin his physical and psychological recovery. According to Valent, Brière is at the end of his powers and knows nothing about the circumstances in which the hearing will take place.
In late December, Brière went on a hunger strike to protest his conditions in prison. He will appear in court after more than a year and a half in custody. “Without having had access to the prosecution’s file or any basic right to defend oneself,” Valent said.
Brière’s sister Blandine says she can see her brother about once every three weeks. But when the man is finally allowed to make a phone call, all his conversations are recorded and translated into Persian, preventing him from speaking freely about his circumstances in the cell.
“Sometimes they let him make a phone call, sometimes they don’t. There is no one with him who speaks French or English, so he has to fight every day to communicate,” said Blandine. Correspondence between Benjamin and his family was also withheld.
Delegates from the French embassy in Iran were able to visit Benjamin in prison. They say he shows no signs of abuse, but his family is concerned for his mental health.
He did use a drone, but we are talking about a drone that he bought online for 100 euros. That doesn’t justify any of this.
Letter to Macron
Last May, Blandine Brière wrote an open letter to President Macron, asking to use “all possible diplomatic means” for Benjamin’s release, but she never received a response. The woman thinks that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not want to make an official statement in the case. ,,They do what they can within the limits of what is possible for Benjamin, I know that. But it’s just that after 20 months, it’s not enough for us,” said Blandine, emphasizing that her brother is a tourist and not a spy.
“We want to make it as clear as possible that this is a misunderstanding. He did use a drone, but we are talking about a drone that he bought online for 100 euros. That doesn’t justify any of this.”
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