The families of four Europeans held hostage by Iran accuse the European Union of ignoring their plight, asking the EU to negotiate their release in the nuclear talks.

In an open letter, signed by the sister of French citizen Benjamin Briere, the wife of Austrian Kamran Ghaderi, the wife of Swedish-Iranian doctor on death row Ahmadreza Djalali and the daughter of German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd and addressed to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, they said their loved ones “wonder whether EU officials have forgotten them and how much longer they will have to endure this ordeal.”

German citizen 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,” they added.

The families also listed legal and other mistreatments their loved one have had to endure. “These European citizens have been subjected to torture, grossly unfair trials based on fabricated charges, without access to legal counsel or proper medical care. All of them are held hostage by a dictatorial regime that does not even abide by the minimum standard of international legal and human rights.”

Kamran Ghaderi with his wife, Harika (Photograph: Courtesy of Ghaderi family)

Briere has been detained since May 2020 and sentenced to eight years in jail on spying charges while Ghaderi has been held for almost seven years since January 2016. Djalali has been in jail for six years and is awaiting execution in Iran on charges of spying for Israel leading to the killing of nuclear scientists.

Amnesty International has accused the Islamic Republic of taking Djalali "hostage" and using him as “a pawn in a cruel political game." Sharmahd was kidnapped in Dubai and transferred to Iran in late July 2020 as Iran accused him of bombing a mosque in Shiraz 2008 that killed 14 people and wounded more than 200 others.  

French citizen Benjamin Briere

Iran has been accused of wrongfully detaining at least a dozen foreign and dual nationals on trumped up charges, effectively as hostages to extract concessions from Western governments. Most of them are held on disputed spying charges.

According to the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), there are currently some 20 dual nationals and foreign nationals with US or European passports detained in Iran.

Borrell said on Monday he was “less confident” about efforts to restore the landmark nuclear deal, which was abandoned by former US president Donald Trump in 2018.

Earlier in the month, Iran reiterated its call for the release of its former officials imprisoned in Europe while Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an academic previously jailed in Iran for over two years, said Tehran is on the hunt for both Swedes and Belgians to exchange with them.

Foreign ministry’s spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Saturday that Assadollah Assadi, serving a 20-year sentence in Belgium over a terror attack in Paris, and former jailor Hamid Nouri, sentenced to life in prison in Sweden for his role in 1988 prison purges, should be released as their trials were illegal.

Assadi, 50, a former attaché at the Iranian embassy in Austria, was convicted of plotting to bomb a gathering of the exiled opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) near Paris on June 30, 2018. Iran says Nouri’s detention is driven by “false allegations” made by the MEK.

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