French tourist detained for 'spying' to appear in Iranian court

French tourist detained for 'spying' to appear in Iranian court
Benjamin Briere, who was accused of spying after flying a camera drone in the Iranian desert, is among dozens of dual nationals and foreigners arrested by Iran in recent years.
2 min read
20 January, 2022
Blandine Briere, the sister of Benjamin Briere, has appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene in her brother's case [AFP via Getty]

A French tourist jailed by Iran on 'espionage' charges is due to appear before court today, one of his lawyers said on Wednesday. 

Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in May 2020 while flying a remote-controlled camera drone in a desert near the Turkmenistan-Iran border. He has been on hunger strike since the end of December to protest his detention conditions.

"Benjamin will attend the court to be tried for spying and acting against national security charges," one of his Iranian lawyers, Saeid Dehghan, told Reuters.

Briere's trial takes place while France, the United States and and other Western powers try to revive the 2015 deal made with Iran to monitor its nuclear program. The deal crumbled in 2018 when it was abandoned by then-US president Donald Trump.

Iran has arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners in recent years, mostly on espionage charges, among them French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, who was detained in 2019 and sentenced to five years in prison before being placed under house arrest. Adelkhah was re-incarcerated last week, sparking international outrage.

Tehran, which is under heavy Western sanctions, has been accused of arresting foreigners as diplomatic pawns.

The United States announced new sanctions on Iranian officials and entities in December, in an apparent attempt to pressure Tehran into making more concessions at the nuclear talks.