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Iranian court upholds Frenchman’s 8-year prison sentence: lawyer

#Iranian #court #upholds #Frenchmans #8year #prison #sentence #lawyer

An Iranian appeals court has upheld an eight-year prison sentence against a Frenchman convicted of espionage charges, his Paris-based lawyer said on Tuesday.

Benjamin Briere was arrested in May 2020 after taking pictures with a recreational drone in a national park. His lawyers and family accused Iran of holding him “hostage”.

Lawyer Philippe Valent said Briere’s case was being “instrumentalized” by the Iranian authorities.

“It’s shocking and dramatic,” he told AFP, adding that the ruling coincided with the resumption of talks between Tehran and Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program.

The appeals court based its decision on the fact that its verdict, translated by Brier’s Iranian lawyer, accused Briere of being “an agent in the service of an enemy state,” Valent said.

Briere, 36, who was convicted in January of espionage and propaganda against Iran’s Islamic system, had appealed the sentence.

His attorney said he was not even given access to the full indictment against him.

Briere’s verdict comes as Iran and world powers try to reach an agreement on reviving the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program at talks in Vienna.

The chief negotiators of the United States and Iran were scheduled to start indirect talks in Qatar on Tuesday to try to remove obstacles blocking attempts to revive a landmark nuclear deal.

Nationals of all three European powers involved in Iran’s nuclear program talks – Britain, France and Germany – are among the foreigners being held in Iran.

“We call on the French, American and British authorities to make the rescue of hostages a precondition for the resumption of negotiations,” Valent said.

During his original trial, Briere’s sister, Blandine, told AFP that her brother was a “political hostage” who was being subjected to a “judicial parody”.

“It’s a political process and it’s useful for Iran sending a message to the French government,” she said.

The French foreign ministry at the time called the verdict “unacceptable” and said Briere was a “tourist”.

Iran insists that all detained foreigners be tried under domestic law, but has repeatedly expressed its willingness to implement prisoner exchanges.

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