Bernard Phelan and Benjamin Brière, two French nationals imprisoned in Iran, have been released and are on their way to France. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Friday.
The 64-year-old French-Irish Phelan was arrested in October and sentenced to 6.5 years in prison this year for allegedly spreading anti-government propaganda. Phelan went on hunger strike on a regular basis. The 36-year-old Brière was arrested in May 2020 and received an eight-year prison sentence in January last year for taking pictures with a drone in a nature reserve in Iran.
President Emmanuel Macron is pleased with the release and thanks everyone who has campaigned for it. Macron says the government will continue to work for the “return of our compatriots still trapped in Iran”. Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin said on Twitter that he was pleased with the release of the French-Irish Phelan and thanked Irish diplomats and the French government for their commitment. Martin also acknowledged the cooperation of the Iranian foreign minister with whom he spoke on Thursday.
Iran has detained several foreigners in recent years on suspicion of espionage or other crimes related to national security. Last week, Swedish-Iranian Habib Chaab was executed for terrorism. Human rights groups criticize the trials, which often take place behind closed doors.