French prisoner Louis Arnaud

French Prisoner Released from Iranian Jail After Two Years

Wednesday, 06/12/2024

Iran has released French citizen Louis Arnaud who had been jailed since September 2022 and sentenced to five years in prison, President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday.

“He will be in France tomorrow after too long incarceration in Iran,” Macron said in a post on his X account.

He also thanked France’s “Omani friends and all those who worked towards this happy outcome.”

“This evening, I am also thinking of Cécile, Jacques and Olivier. I call on Iran to release them without delay,” Macron added.

Bilateral relations has deteriorated in recent months with Tehran holding four French citizens in what Paris has said are arbitrary arrests equivalent to state hostage taking.

France is also increasingly concerned by Iran's regional activities and the advance of its nuclear program.

On Monday, Tehran had announced ongoing efforts to secure the release of Bashir Biazar, a former managing director of Iran's state broadcaster who has been detained in France and is awaiting deportation.

Nasser Kanaani, the spokesperson for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said Monday that diplomatic actions have been taken since the moment they were informed of Biazar’s arrest, without elaborating further.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Iranian Embassy have been actively following up on his case through diplomatic notes and phone calls,” he noted, adding that the ministry has also discussed his release with the French ambassador in Tehran, Nicolas Roche.

Sources had informed Iran International on Friday that the deportation process for Biazar is in progress following his detention. While Iranian officials assert that his arrest is linked to his anti-Israel activities, sources have disclosed to Iran International that he is facing multiple security-related charges. The nature of these charges is not clear, although in similar cases in the past Iranian diplomats and government employees abroad were found to have had links with Tehran's security and intelligence organs.

It is not clear if the two cases are related, but the timing of Arnaud's release raises possible questions.

Biazar has resided in France since 2022 on a long-term family visa due to his wife’s residency. Prior to his arrest, he posted a video of his speech at the UN Human Rights Council last November, in which he criticized Israel and the sanctions imposed on Iran. Previously living in London, Biazar Identified himself as the secretary of the Iran-backed Islamic Student Association of London in interviews with Iran’s state-run outlets such as the IRGC's Tasnim News Agency. He was later forced to leave the UK.

Arnaud, who had been held since September 2022 after travelling in the country, was sentenced to five years in prison in November on security charges. He was held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

"This evening, I also think of Cecile, Jacques and Olivier. I am calling on Iran to liberate them without delay," Macron said.

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

Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests. Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, denies taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage.

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