French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Tuesday Paris was pressing Iran to free detained nationals, confirming five were currently held.
“I hope to speak to the Iranian foreign minister today to ask once again for the immediate release of all our compatriots,” Colonna told France Inter radio. The minister said she expected a meeting of European Union foreign ministers October 17 to “validate” a set of sanctions against Iran targeting those “behind the repression.”
France Monday advised nationals against going to Iran for any reason and directed those there “to limit their movements…to imperatively avoid any type of gathering and to make themselves known to the French Embassy in Tehran.”
The five French detainees include Cecile Kohler, a trade union leader, and her partner Jacques Paris, who were arrested in May, accused of involvement in teachers’ protests seeking higher pay, and whose ‘confessions’ aired last week on an Iranian state television station. The pair said they were in Iran on holiday. A trailer on the Arabic-language Al-Alam station said they had arrived with “packets of money.”
Also in jail is French-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah, arrested 2019 and sentenced to five years in prison for “undermining national security.” Another French citizen, Benjamin Briere, was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years and eight months for espionage, without due process of law.
‘Adhere to the rules’
After the recent outbreak of protests following the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest in Tehran by ‘morality police,’ Iran said late September it had detained nine foreign nationals linked to unrest, including those from France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said Monday that foreigners “should adhere to the rules and regulations and not enter into issues that are basically not within the scope of the normal travel of foreign citizens.”
The French embassy in Tehran Tuesday announced delays in processing visa applications from Iranians due to “the internet filtering the Iranian authorities have decided to do.” Harmatullah Rafiei, head of a leading tourism association, had earlier suggested some European embassies had suspended processing Schengen visas. Iran argues that social media has been used by foreign-based groups to foment violence including attacks on ambulances.
The European Union has as yet given no indication of what sanctions may be agreed at the foreign ministers’ meeting October 17. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told Bild am Sonntag, a Sunday newspaper, that Berlin would support measures freezing the assets and banning the EU entry of those responsible for “brutal suppression,” referring to antigovernment protests.
While Baerbock did not name any persons or organizations, the United Kingdom announced Monday it was sanctioning Iran’s ‘morality police,’ the police’s national head Mohammad Rostami and its Tehran chief Ahmad Mirzaei, and well as national police chief Hossein Ashtari and other officials, whom it accused of “serious human rights violations.” Tehran summoned the British ambassador Monday evening to protest over ‘interference in internal affairs.’