May 13, 2023
Frenchman 'Weakened' by Iran Prison Ordeal
PARIS — The family of a Frenchman released this week after he had been jailed by Iran said on Saturday he was "relieved" to be back in France.
On Friday, Benjamin Briere, whose ordeal in Iran lasted three years, and French-Irish citizen Bernard Phelan, held since October, were freed from their prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the French foreign ministry said.
There had been grave concerns about the health of the men, both of whom had been on hunger strikes to protest their conditions.
Briere, 37, was first detained while traveling in Iran in May 2020 and later sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage.
"We were able to hold him in our arms at 1930 (1730GMT) on Friday, May 12, after three years of hell," Briere's family said in a press release.
"He is, like all of us, relieved, calm, and he is trying to realize that he's really here, with us," they said. "He is, however, very weak, physically and morally, a return to normal life will be long and certainly difficult, but now he is in good hands."
Dozens of foreigners jailed
The pair were among some two dozen foreigners jailed in Iran, who campaigners see as hostages held in a deliberate strategy by Tehran to extract concessions from the West.
Four more French citizens, described previously as "hostages" by the French foreign ministry, are still in prison by Iran.
A fifth individual, French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah was released from prison in February but appears still unable to leave the country.
Several U.S., German, British, Swedish and other European citizens, such as Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele — who was arrested in February 2022 — also remain detained.
"All our thoughts now turn toward the five other French hostages still held in Iran," Briere's family said.
"Our thoughts are also with other families of European hostages held in Iran, with whom we share this heavy and painful battle," they said. "We send them strength and courage, and we continue to fight alongside them," they added.