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Iran jails Irish-French national for 6.5 years — family

By AFP - Mar 09,2023 - Last updated at Mar 09,2023

PARIS — Iran has jailed for six-and-a-half years on national security charges an Irish-French citizen held since October, his family said, adding that health problems meant his life was in danger.

Bernard Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant, was arrested in October in the north-eastern city of Mashhad and has been held ever since.

He is one of some two dozen foreigners jailed in Iran who campaigners see as hostages held to extract concessions from the West.

Phelan, 64, is accused of transmitting information to an enemy state, a charge he denies, his family said in a statement late Tuesday.

At an initial hearing on February 20, where he was allowed to be accompanied only by a regime-appointed lawyer, he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, earning a deduction for health reasons and his age.

But a second hearing on February 26 saw the sentenced raised to six and a half years, the family said.

“The health of Bernard is very worrying and his life is in danger,” the family’s statement said.

The family said that his health has “deteriorated considerably” in detention and he needs daily medication for a number of health issues, and that it fears his supplies are running out.

His health issues include cardiovascular problems, hypertension, high risk of stroke and kidney failure and a bone problem that generates significant chronic pain, while his eyesight is also deteriorating.

Phelan went on a dry hunger strike in January to protest his detention but stopped the action at the request of his family, who feared he would die.

With Iran rocked by anti-regime protests since September, Phelan has been accused of taking photos of a burned mosque and police officers, and sending images to a British newspaper, the family said, adding that he denies the accusations.

He has also been accused of taking 900-year-old pieces of pottery from a village, which he also denies, it added.

Six French citizens, described as “hostages” by the French foreign ministry, are currently held in prison by Iran.

French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah was released from prison in February but it remains unclear if she is able to leave the country.

French citizen Benjamin Briere, detained in May 2020 and later sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage, was acquitted by an appeals court but remains in prison in a situation deemed “incomprehensible” by his family.

Held like Phelan in the prison of Vakilabad in Mashhad, Briere is continuing a hunger strike he started a month ago, and is “exhausted physically and mentally”, according to his French lawyer.

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