PARIS (Reuters) - Families of European nationals held in Iran have sent a letter to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell demanding answers over the fate of their loved ones, which they feel are being neglected as the bloc tries to revive a nuclear deal.
In recent years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on charges related to espionage and security.
"Negotiations with Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been taking place for months. Meanwhile, several European citizens are being held hostage by the Islamic
Republic of Iran," said a letter addressed to Borrell seen by Reuters, dated Sept. 6.
It was signed by family members of Benjamin Brière, Kamran Ghaderi, Ahmadreza Djalali and Jamshid Sharmahd.
"We, the families of French, Swedish, German, and Austrian citizens, who have been illegally detained by the Iranian regime, are outraged that the European Union seems to be ignoring these crimes."
Borrell's office was not immediately available for comment.
Talks to revive a 2015 accord to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for the easing of sanctions have stalled since March despite hopes in August of a breakthrough.
The EU is the coordinator of the indirect talks between Iran, the United States and world powers and on Monday Borrell said he was less confident of reaching a deal after receiving Tehran's latest proposal.
Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests. Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, denies taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage.
"All of them wonder, whether EU officials have forgotten them and how much longer they will have to endure this ordeal," the letter said, calling on Borrell to focus on their release.
"Will their release be prioritised? Will the European Union prioritise the defence of its values, the defence of human rights, over economic and other interests?" the letter added.
(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)