May 12 (UPI) — A pair of French citizens detained in Iran were released on Friday, diplomatic officials announced.
France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced that Bernard Phelan and Benjamin Briere had been released from Vakilabad prison and were on their way back to France after receiving medical treatment.
“Talking this morning to my Iranian counterpart, Mr. Hossein Amir Bdollahian, I thanked all those who worked to secure these releases,” Colonna said. “I recalled France’s determination for the other French citizens still being held in Iran also to regain their full freedom swiftly and benefit from their right to consular protection.”
Micheal Martin, Ireland’s deputy prime minister and minister for foreign affairs, also said he was grateful that Phelan, a dual Irish and French citizen, was free.
“I have continually stressed the urgency of Mr. Phelan’s release on humanitarian grounds. This case has been a key priority for me throughout my time as Tanaiste and minister of foreign affairs,” he said.
Phelan, a travel consultant based in Paris, was arrested on Oct. 3 while traveling in Mashhad in the northeast of Iran. He was charged with sending photos to the British news outlet The Guardian and taking two small pieces of 900-year-old pottery from a village while traveling in Iran.
Briere was arrested in May 2020, while traveling as a tourist near Iran’s northeastern border with Turkmenistan. He was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison on espionage charges.
Both men went on hunger strikes to protest their arrests.
“Free, finally. Benjamin Briere and Bernard Phélan will find their loved ones,” Macron said on Twitter. “It is a relief. I welcome their release. Thank you to everyone who worked on this outcome. We will continue to act for the return of our compatriots still detained in Iran.