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Iran sentences French national to 8 years in prison for spying - lawyer

Police take security measures after gunmen opened fire at Iran’s parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in the capital Tehran, Iran on June 7, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]
Iranian police in Tehran, Iran on June 7, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

An Iranian court, on Tuesday, convicted French national, Benjamin Briere, of espionage, sentencing him to eight years and eight months in prison, Briere's lawyer said, describing the ruling as the result of a biased, highly politicised judicial process, Reuters reports.

Briere, 36, has been held in Iran 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.

Briere was charged with spying and "propaganda against the Islamic Republic". He has, through his lawyers, consistently denied wrong-doing.

"This ruling is the result of a purely political process," his lawyer, Philippe Valent, said in a statement.

The family of the young man, who is on a hunger strike, "is alarmed by his physical and psychological health, in particular with the announcement of this verdict," Valent said, urging French authorities to step in.

Iran's judiciary was not immediately available for comment. There was no immediate reaction by France's Foreign Ministry.

In recent years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on charges related to espionage and security.

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His client's trial had been a farce, Valent said.

"Benjamin Briere obviously did not – nor ever – benefit from any form of fair trial before impartial judges," he said, adding that Briere had not had access to his file and could not prepare for the trial.

Briere's trial came as the United States and parties to Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, including France, tried to revive the pact after then-US President, Donald Trump, pulled his country out of the agreement in 2018.

Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests. Western powers have long demanded that Tehran free their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.

Earlier this month, Iran re-imprisoned Franco-Iranian academic, Fariba Adelkhah, sentenced to five years in jail in 2020 but recently living under house arrest. France has demanded Adelkhah's immediate release.

Iran, on Monday, ruled out any US pre-conditions for reviving a 2015 nuclear deal, including the release of American prisoners held by the Islamic Republic.

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