TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian state television confirmed Tuesday that two French nationals had been arrested, saying they had met with protesting teachers and had attended an anti-government rally.
The report identified the two as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69, and said they were not on a touristic visit to Iran. France had previously mentioned the two of them, a teachers’ union official and his wife, on vacation in Iran.
The Intelligence Ministry in Tehran said it had detained only two Europeans last week.
TV broadcast footage of the two arriving, saying they landed at Tehran airport from Turkey on April 28. He also posted and aired footage of their meeting with Iranian teachers and other activists, as well as being at a protest meeting. A video showing two people being arrested on their way to Tehran airport to leave the country on 7 May.
The report said that two French nationals “organized a protest” in order to create “unrest” in Iran.
Last Thursday, France condemned the “unfounded arrest” of the two and called for their immediate release. The French Foreign Ministry said its ambassador in Tehran was trying to gain dual consular access and that the charge d’affaires at the Iranian Embassy in Paris had been summoned for clarifications.
Benjamin Briere, another French national, was sentenced in January to more than eight years in prison for espionage by Iran for photographing “restricted areas” with a drone in 2020, in what he said was a tourist visit to the north of the country.
Briere’s lawyer claimed that his client was used as a “bargaining chip” in diplomatic negotiations between Iran and Western countries at the time regarding Tehran’s frayed nuclear deal with world powers.
Also in January, Iranian justice ordered the re-imprisonment of Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, who was arrested in 2019 and allowed to serve a five-year sentence under house arrest for a period of time. He was accused of “propagandizing against the political system of the Islamic Republic” and “conspiracy to undermine national security”.
There have been teacher strikes in cities across Iran in recent weeks. Teachers left their classrooms to push for better pay and working conditions.