At the G20 summit in Indonesia last month, Emmanuel Macron accused Iran of being an “unacceptable hostage-taking” in response to Western criticism of his regime’s human rights policies.
The French president had referred to the imprisonment of seven French nationals, some of whom Tehran claimed had been sent from France to incite anti-government protests that have rocked the country since September. ing.
What was not publicly known at the time was that one of the seven was Irish, was, as his sister put it, “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and was now embroiled in a complex diplomatic tangle. It means that you have noticed that
Bernard Phelan, a 64-year-old Tipperary tourism consultant, was arrested by Iranian police on October 3. Since then, he has been confined to the dire conditions of the infamous Vakilabad Prison, sharing his 15 cells with others. He faces multiple charges, including spreading propaganda against Iran and photographing police officers, all of which he denies.
Mr. Phelan lives in Paris and traveled on a French passport on his most recent trip. Irish security sources believe he was detained on trumped-up charges to send a message to the French government.
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The arrest comes after France’s foreign minister summoned the Iranian ambassador in Paris to protest the regime’s brutal suppression of protests following the death of 22-year-old Masa Amini in police custody in September. It happened a few days after I summoned the Iranian ambassador to Paris.
France also called for tougher European Union sanctions against the Iranian regime. Tensions between the two governments were already tense over the stalled Iran nuclear deal.
Three days after Mr Ferrand’s arrest, when Iranian authorities broadcast tapes of two other French citizens, they “confessed” to spying on French intelligence and plotting to overthrow the regime. Paris responded furiously, denying the two men were spies and accusing Tehran of holding its citizens hostage.
Back in Dublin, then Foreign Minister Simon Coveney summoned Iran’s Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Masood Eslami, to express Ireland’s concerns over the protests and Iran’s supply of drones to Russia.
Although it was not disclosed at the time, it is almost certain that Mr. Phelan’s arrest was also filed. Since then, Irish diplomats have been working quietly behind the scenes to secure Mr Phelan’s release.
They say the fact that Mr Phelan is an Irish citizen, a passport holder and a person born in the country may convince Tehran that there is little political interest in keeping him prisoner. I hope not.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of the matter and has been working closely with France from the beginning to provide consular assistance. The matter has also been raised directly with the Iranian authorities,” a spokesperson said yesterday. He said in the Department of Defense’s first public comment on the matter.
So far they have had little success, but the Phelan family says it is a Trojan horse attempt by Irish and French officials. Since October, his health and morale have been declining, while more charges have been filed against Mr. Phelan. He said he was told by a court interpreter, “You will die in prison.”
He only turns to one of his cellmates as a reminder of what the future holds. He is serving an eight-year sentence in Vakilabad for “espionage” after alleging allegations.
The Phelan family is also quietly appealing for his release. Mr Phelan’s father, Mr Vincent, wrote to the Iranian ambassador to Ireland begging for his son’s release. The Ambassador asked Senior Phelan to be patient and wait for the judicial process to proceed.
“Please be assured that authorities on both sides are in touch and working to resolve this issue,” Dr. Eslami wrote.
Patience doesn’t come easy for the Phelan family, who only called Bernard once during their 84-day imprisonment.
“Bernard was supposed to be with me for my 97th birthday in November and also for Christmas,” Vincent Phelan said Tuesday. increase.”