French national Benjamin Briere sentenced to 8 years in prison for "spying". FILE PHOTO

French national Benjamin Briere sentenced to 8 years in prison for "spying".

Iran Spying Conviction For Frenchman Is 'Political', Lawyer Says


An Iranian court Tuesday convicted French national Benjamin Briere of espionage, sentencing him to eight years in prison, French news network BFM TV reported.

Briere, 36, has been held in Iran since May 2020, when he was arrested after flying a helicam - a remote-controlled mini helicopter used to obtain aerial or motion images - in the desert near the Turkmenistan-Iran border.

Briere was charged with spying and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic". He had through his lawyers consistently denied wrongdoing.

Briere’s lawyer, Philippe Valent, said the spying charges was the result of a "purely political process", and added that his family was worried about his mental and physical health.

In recent years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on charges related to espionage and security.

Briere's trial came as the United States and parties to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, including France, tried to revive the pact after then-US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement in 2018.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told Reuters on Sunday that he could not imagine reaching an agreement without prisoners in Iran being released.

Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests. Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, whom they say are political prisoners.

Reporting by Reuters

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