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French Tourist Detained In Iran Nine Months Ago


Vakilabad prison in the city of Mashhad

France has confirmed that Iran detained a French tourist in May 2020 on vague security-related charges.

The Foreign Ministry said on February 24 the French national was under consular protection and the French Embassy maintained contact with him and his family.

The confirmation came after multiple media outlets reported on the 35-year-old tourist's arrest.

The detainee's lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, told Reuters that the man, identified only as Benjamin, was being held at Vakilabad prison in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

"He was detained nine months ago and he faces contradictory and false charges," Dehghan said.

In separate comments to AP, Dehghan denied reports Benjamin had been arrested for flying a drone in the desert.

He said his client operated a helicam, or a remote-controlled mini-helicopter used to take video or pictures.

The arrest comes as the United States and European parties to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal are trying to restore the accord that was abandoned in 2018 by former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Iran's security agencies regularly detain foreigners or dual nationals, mostly on espionage charges.

Critics say Iran uses such arbitrarily detentions as part of hostage diplomacy to extract political concessions from Western countries, which Tehran denies.

Iran also complains its citizens have been detained in the West for violating sanctions, which it deems illegal.

In March 2020, France and Iran conducted a prisoner exchange, swapping French academic Roland Marchal for Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad, who had been detained over alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Tehran.

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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