the identity of a fifth French detainee revealed

the identity of a fifth French detainee revealed

We already knew the names of Fariba Adelkhah, Benjamin Brière, Cécile Kohler and Jacques Paris, considered by France as “hostages” held by Iran. The Irish Daily Irish Times revealed Thursday, December 29 the identity of a fifth detainee in the hands of the Iranian regime, out of the seven identified by the French authorities: it is a Franco-Irish tourism consultant by the name of Bernard Phelan, aged 64 year.

Originally from the city of Tipperary in the Republic of Ireland, he lived, according to the Irish newspaper, in Paris and used his French passport to travel to Iran as part of a business trip. Arrested by the police on October 3, he was notably prosecuted for propaganda against the regime and for having taken photos of police officers. What he denies.

“In the wrong place at the wrong time”

According to The Irish Times, Bernard Phelan is being held in Vakilabad prison, in the city of Mashhad, in the northeast of the country. This is where Benjamin Brière is also incarcerated, arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison for espionage.

According to Irish security sources interviewed by the daily, the detention of Bernard Phelan would aim to send a message to the French government of the type: ” Mind your own business “. His family believes that Bernard Phelan, whose health and morale are deteriorating, found himself “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

On the Irish side, diplomats are working to obtain his release, hoping to convince Tehran that the political benefit of keeping him captive is minimal, reports theIrish Times. On the French side, on December 20, on the sidelines of a regional summit in Jordan, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna took advantage of the meeting with her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian to once again demand the “release of hostages” French.

“Diplomatic error”

In addition to Benjamin Brière and, therefore, Bernard Phelan, the Islamic Republic holds the Franco-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, arrested in June 2019 then sentenced to five years in prison for undermining national security, as well as a teacher and trade unionist, Cécile Kohler and his companion Jacques Paris, arrested in early May 2022 while sightseeing in Iran.

The families of the French detainees do not hide their impatience and their annoyance at France’s strategy on this file. Emmanuel Macron’s welcome at the Élysée in mid-November to four Iranian opponents, including the regime’s pet peeve, Masih Alinejad, and the French president’s use of the word ” revolution “ to qualify the protest movement was not to everyone’s taste.

«It is an incredible provocation towards a regime with which we claim to be negotiating and a diplomatic mistake, judge Jean-François Bayart, professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID, Geneva).

A torn regime

In a letter to President Emmanuel Macron, the support committees of Fariba Adelkhah and Benjamin Brière on December 19 called on the executive to “reconsider your negotiation strategy”judging that she has “achieved no significant results”. For relatives of detainees, who note that “the capture of foreigners has become a real public policy in Iran”they are not “nothing but a bargaining chip for obscure transactions that have nothing to do with them”.

Tehran has been using this hostage diplomacy for years as a means of pressure on various countries, in particular to obtain the release of prisoners of high value in the eyes of the regime. “The Iranian services do their shopping, they take hostages without really knowing what to do with them, like savings to be distilled when the time comes, believes Jean-François Bayart. The problem is that you never know what the Iranians want. »

Because the top of the Iranian state is much more composite and torn than it seems. “There are terrible clashes between the clergy, who want to stay in power by all means, and who, paradoxically, are ready to negotiate with the West, and certain ultra-conservatives, especially among the IRGC (1)who want to seize this opportunity to discredit the clergy, capture more power and push a less religious and much more nationalist agenda, deciphers Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES). It’s hard to say which part of Iranian power is pushing for more hostages, but it’s not necessarily the government. »


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