Families of three French citizens imprisoned in Iran in front of the UN building in Geneva (May 2024)

French Families Seek UN Help for Relatives in Iranian Prisons

Wednesday, 05/29/2024

Families of three French citizens arbitrarily imprisoned in Iran without due process of law are urging the United Nations to apply pressure on Tehran for their release.

The relatives of Cecile Kohler, Jacques Paris, and Louis Arnaud, alongside their legal representatives, made a plea for their release outside the UN office in Geneva on Monday.

Noemi Koehler, the sister of Cecile Kohler, expressed deep concern over the deteriorating health of her sister and her partner, Jacques Paris, who have been detained for over two years.

"Today is an absolute emergency, their health is deteriorating, and it is time for this nightmare to end," she told AFP, emphasizing the urgent need for their release.

The French government has previously condemned Iran's use of foreign citizens and dual nationals as political pawns, criticizing Iran for adopting a policy of "state hostage-taking" and "blackmail". However, Tehran has dismissed these accusations as "interventionist and inappropriate."

Sylvie Arnoud, the mother of Louis Arnoud, echoed this urgency. "It is very important and necessary for us that their situation and arbitrary detention be recognized and that they be released as soon as possible," she said.

Families of three French citizens imprisoned in Iran in front of the UN building in Geneva

Arnoud, a banking consultant, was sentenced to five years in prison by an Iranian court last November. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the sentence as "unacceptable," citing a lack of legal representation for Arnoud during the proceedings.

Kohler, a teacher of contemporary French literature, was arbitrarily detained along with her partner Paris during a trip to Iran on charges of “espionage”. The families argue that these charges are baseless and politically motivated, part of what they describe as Iran's "hostage policy" to exert pressure on Western governments.

Both Paris and Kohler were subject to inhumane detention conditions including forced false confessions on state TV - a tactic commonly employed by the Iranian intelligence ministry. In 2020, a study by rights groups focused on human rights in Iran revealed that Iran’s state TV had aired over 350 forced confessions in the last decade on behalf of Iran’s security services.

Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris during a video of forced confessions on state TV

In addition to Kohler, Paris, and Arnoud, another French citizen, known only as Olivier, is also imprisoned in Iran. His full identity remains undisclosed.

The families, accompanied by their lawyers, met with members of the UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, an independent panel mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

Martin Pradel, one of the lawyers, argued that the detentions violate international conventions that Iran is party to, deeming the arrests arbitrary.

Families of three French citizens imprisoned in Iran in front of the UN building in Geneva

"We are in a hurry because we know that the conditions of their detention are very difficult," Pradel stated, hoping for a swift and decisive response from the UN working group by summer. Pradel further wrote on X that “Iran must stop its 'hostage diplomacy.'”

Louis Arnaud Support Committee - Arnaud’s loved ones' online petition to free Arnaud has gained 130,000 signatures so far. Marking Arnaud’s 607th day in detention, the Committee urged the public “to continue the chain of solidarity” by signing the petition, tagging French President Emmanuel Macron.

Noemie Kohler has also petitioned to Macron for help in bringing back her sister and Jacques home, calling on “France to do everything possible to obtain their release as a matter of urgency”. The petition further adds that during the entire two years of detention which included several months of solitary confinement, the Iranian authorities “only granted them three brief consular visits” and denied legal representation.

"We want the French President to understand that he needs to get angry and simply say that this situation is unacceptable," Pradel emphasized.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron raised eyebrows again on Tuesday when he expressed sympathy and condolences to the relatives of the man known as Tehran’s Butcher, the late Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi served as Iran’s President when the French citizens were arbitrarily detained and tortured.

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