Iranian authorities accuse French citizens, whom they have not named, of espionage and collusion against national security.
Tehran, Iran – The Iranian judiciary has issued espionage charges against two French citizens and has charged a Belgian in a separate case.
The two French citizens were not named, but judiciary spokesman Masoud Setayeshi said at a press conference on Tuesday that they have been arrested on charges of espionage and conspiracy against national security. He said a final court ruling is yet to be made.
He also said that an indictment of unspecified charges had been issued against an unnamed Belgian national on November 9 and that the case was pending before a branch of the Revolutionary Court.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna had said in mid-November that two unnamed French nationals had been detained in Iran, bringing the total number of people from France detained there to seven.
She made the announcement amid Iran’s ongoing protests, which began in September and saw dozens of foreigners arrested.
Two French nationals, Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris, were arrested in May. The Iranian authorities accuse them of espionage and fomenting unrest. Their visit to Iran had come as teachers protested.
In October, Iranian state television broadcast “confessions” from the couple, which the French Foreign Ministry condemned when they called Kohler and Paris “state hostages.”
French-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah was arrested in 2019 and sentenced to five years on national security charges, while another Frenchman, traveler and blogger Benjamin Briere, was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to eight years on espionage charges.
Meanwhile, Belgian Olivier Vandecasteele, a former aid worker, has been imprisoned in Iran since February on espionage charges. His family announced last month that Vandecasteele has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.
The semi-official Tasnim news website on Tuesday quoted an unnamed “informed source” as saying a Belgian has been sentenced to an unspecified sentence. It alleged that the Belgian had entered Iran “under the cover of humanitarian efforts for the purpose of spying for the hostile US government and distributing money to groups active in anti-security areas”.
Iran has said 40 foreigners have been arrested in “riots” in recent months. The spokesman for the judiciary told reporters on Tuesday that they were arrested in different locations and at different times and did not provide details on specific cases.
France, Belgium and several other countries have called on their citizens to leave Iran and refrain from visiting over fears they could be arbitrarily arrested.
Over the years, Tehran has been accused of using arrested dual nationals and foreign nationals as a bargaining chip to win concessions from other countries, something the Iranian government has consistently denied.
Protests broke out all over Iran in mid-September after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the country’s vice squad for allegedly violating a mandatory dress code.
During the ongoing unrest, Iran has suppressed internet services and VPNs, the virtual private networks citizens use to get around internet restrictions. Human rights groups based abroad say more than 500 people have been killed and thousands arrested since the protests began.