French citizen Benjamin Briere was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison in Iran in a final judgment that declared France a “hostile state”, his Iranian lawyer said on Tuesday.
Saied Dehghan wrote on Twitter that his client’s conviction for “espionage” and “propaganda against the regime” had been finalized by the court, on grounds that also included “sympathy for the victims of the Ukrainian plane [the Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 disaster]“, “computer expertise” and “possession of several hard drives and mobile phones”.
Brière, 36, a travel blogger, was arrested in May 2020 and charged with flying a drone in a restricted area near the Iran-Turkmenistan border. He was charged with “acting against national security” and taken to Vakilabad prison in Mashhad.
His family and lawyer have insisted he is innocent and believe he is being held on “baseless” charges as a hostage, potentially in connection with the nuclear talks, as France is a member of the P5+1.
When the sentence was first pronounced by the Revolutionary Court in January, her sister Blandine Brière wrote on Instagram: “This sentence is the result of a purely political process and the result of a useful mechanism for the Iranian regime, devoid of of any foundation.
“He never benefited from any form of fair trial before impartial judges. He had no right to defend himself, no access to the details of the case. Increasingly weakened by a hunger strike a month ago, we are now alarmed by his physical and psychological state of health.
“It is not tolerable that Benjamin is held hostage to the negotiations of a regime that acts on its will to arbitrarily detain a French citizen, just to make it a bargaining chip.”
News of the finalization of Brière’s sentencing came a day after the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) called on the European Union to take a tougher stance on the escalation of rights violations rights at all levels of society in Iran, regardless of progress in Vienna.
“The silence on human rights from [foreign policy chief Josep] Borell and the EU are deafening,” said director Hadi Ghaemi. “The international community must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Nuclear negotiations should not detract from attention to the growing human rights catastrophe in Iran.