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December 29, 2021

Frenchman Detained in Iran Goes on Hunger Strike

French citizen, Benjamin Brière, was first detained while visiting Iran as a tourist in May of 2020, after allegedly flying a drone and taking photographs in a prohibited area near the Iran-Turkmenistan border. Other reports state that Brière had posts on social media, which raised questions about Iran’s compulsory headscarf for women—an issue that Iranian women’s rights activists have long advocated against. 

Iranian authorities have charged Brière with espionage and “propaganda against the state,” accusations which French authorities have strongly rejected. Reports on Monday confirmed that Brière began a hunger strike on Christmas Day in protest of his treatment and continued detention in Iran. Despite the holidays, Brière was reportedly denied a phone call to his family and, according to his family, has been subjected to other mistreatment such as “psychological torture.” They also noted that Brière struggles to communicate with his captors because he does not know the local language. 

According to Brière’s lawyer, his client has yet to face a judge in an Iranian court and has no trial scheduled. The absence of urgency on the part of the Iranian judiciary to address Brière’s case not only unjustly prolongs his ordeal, but also reflects an Iranian justice system that lacks accountability. 

Brière’s case raises additional concerns about politically motivated detentions by Iranian authorities and a pattern of arresting dual and foreign nationals. Human beings are not bargaining chips. Iranian authorities must abide by their human rights obligations, including due process and maintaining suitable prison standards, and end their policy of arbitrary detentions. Brière joins a number of prisoners in Iran, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who have also undertaken hunger strikes as their form of protest against their unwarranted arrests and mistreatment

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