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Tehran, May 13 – Iran has released two French nationals on humanitarian grounds, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The two men, Bernard Phelan and Benjamin Briere, were arrested in Iran in 2022 and 2020, respectively, reports Xinhua news agency.
In a statement published by the Ministry late Friday, spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said the release was an act of “goodwill” following negotiations between the two countries at various levels, including discussions between the Iranian and French Foreign Ministers, reports Xinhua news agency.
He added that the release was also in line with Iran’s “related laws and regulations.”
Phelan, a 64-year-old travel consultant who also held Irish nationality, was arrested in October 2022 in Iran and sentenced to over six years in prison for “sending security information” abroad after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in a Tehran hospital on September 16, a few days after her collapse at a police station.
Briere was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to eight years in prison on espionage charges.
He was detained after flying a remote-controlled mini helicopter to obtain aerial or motion images near the Turkmenistan-Iran border.
Phelan was released from Mashhad prison and on his way to France with his compatriot Briere, according to French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
Colonna had spoken earlier on Friday to her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir Abdollahian and described the release as an “effective and trust-building step” during the phone call, the Foreign Ministry in Tehran said.
For his part, Amir-Abdollahian commended France for its “realistic approach” in dealing with Tehran.
He emphasized the importance of France’s “strategic independence” in today’s changing world.