By Parisa Hafezi
DUBAI, Jan 19 (Reuters) – A French tourist jailed in Iran, Benjamin Briere, will appear before a Revolutionary Court on Thursday on spying charges, his lawyer said on Wednesday, over a year after his arrest while operating a remote-controlled mini helicopter in a desert area.
Briere has been held since May 2020, when he was arrested after flying a helicam – a remote-controlled mini helicopter used to obtain aerial or motion images – in the desert near the Turkmenistan-Iran border. He was charged with espionage and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”.
“Benjamin will attend the court to be tried for spying and acting against national security charges,” one of his lawyers, Saeid Dehghan, told Reuters. Representatives of Iran’s judiciary could not be reached for comment.
In a separate case, France called on Iran last week to release Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, whom Tehran sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison for security-related charges.
The Iranian judiciary said last week Adelkhah had been once again incarcerated for violating the terms of her house arrest.
Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, said Adelkhah was an Iranian citizen and France should not interfere in the Islamic Republic’s judicial affairs.
Briere’s trial and Adelkhah’s return to prison come as the United States and other parties to Iran‘s 2015 nuclear deal including France try to restore the pact, which was abandoned in 2018 by then-U.S. president Donald Trump. In recent years, Iran‘s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners mostly on espionage and security-related charges. Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests, while Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.
Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and denies holding people for political reasons.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Hugh Lawson, William Maclean and Mark Heinrich)