Iran appeals court confirms 8-year sentence for jailed Frenchman Benjamin Brière, lawyer says

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© Adrienne Surprenant, AP / file

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

Benjamin Brière was arrested in May 2020 after taking pictures in a national park with a recreational drone. His lawyers and family have accused Iran of holding him as a "hostage".

The lawyer, Philippe Valent, said Brière's case was being "instrumentalised" by the Iranian authorities.

"It's shocking and dramatic," he told AFP, adding that the verdict coincided with the resumption of negotiations between Tehran and Western powers on Iran's nuclear programme.

The appeals court explained its decision by accusing Brière of being "an agent in the service of an enemy state" in its verdict, which was translated by Brière's Iranian lawyer, Valent said.

Brière, 36, who was convicted in January for spying and propaganda against Iran, had appealed the sentence.

His lawyer said he had not even been given access to the full indictment against him.

The verdict against Brière comes as Iran and world powers are seeking to reach agreement at talks in Vienna on reviving the 2015 deal over the Iranian nuclear programme.

Chief negotiators from the United States and Iran were due to start indirect talks in Qatar on Tuesday, to try to remove obstacles stalling attempts to revive a landmark nuclear deal.

Lawyer: Make freedom of ‘hostages’ pre-condition for talks

Nationals of all three European powers involved in the talks on the Iranian nuclear programme Britain, France and Germany are among foreigners being held in Iran.

"We ask the French, American and British authorities to make the liberation of hostages a pre-condition for the resumption of negotiations," Valent said.

During his original trial, Brière's sister Blandine told AFP her brother was a "political hostage" subjected to a "parody of justice".

"It is a political trial, and it is useful to Iran, which is sending a message to the French government," she said.

>> Loved ones fear for Frenchman detained in Iran for 'spying'

The French foreign ministry at the time described the verdict as "unacceptable", saying Brière was a "tourist".

Iran insists all the foreigners held are tried in line with domestic law but has repeatedly expressed its readiness to carry out prisoner swaps.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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