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Iran airs video of 2 French citizens ‘confessing’ to spying

Cecile Kohler and Chuck Paris, unionists with ties to France’s National Federation of Education, Culture and Vocational Training, ostensibly admit they work for French intelligence

Illustrative: Kasr prison in Tehran, Iran in 1980 (AP Photo)
Illustrative: Kasr prison in Tehran, Iran in 1980 (AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran on Thursday published video showing two French citizens arrested for spying amid ongoing protests roiling the country that Tehran has sought to describe as a foreign plot instead of local anger over the death of a 22-year-old detained by the country’s morality police.

The video released by the state-run IRNA news agency showed two French citizens, Cecile Kohler and Chuck Paris, who are unionists associated with France’s National Federation of Education, Culture and Vocational Training.

Iran, which long has used detained Westerners as bargaining chips in negotiations, previously has offered no public evidence to support the spying accusations.

The clips resembled other videos of Tehran has forced prisoners to make. In 2020, one report suggested authorities over the last decade had aired at least 355 coerced confessions.

In the clips, Kohler wears a headscarf and purportedly describes herself as an “intelligence and operation agent of French foreign security service.” Paris purportedly says: “Our goals in French foreign security service is to put pressure on Iran’s government.”

The clips are part of what is described as a forthcoming documentary to air on Iranian state television.

France did not immediately respond to the release of the video clips. However, in May, the French government demanded their release and condemned “these baseless arrests.”

Their visit to Iran coincided with months of protests by teachers for higher wages in the country.

Meanwhile, Iran has been roiled by weeks of protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being detained by the country’s morality police.

Another French citizen, Benjamin Briere, was sentenced in January by Iran to over eight years in prison for espionage, for photographing “prohibited areas” with a drone in 2020 during what he said was a tourist visit in the north of the country.

Briere’s lawyer had claimed his client was being used as a “bargaining chip” in diplomatic negotiations at the time between Iran and Western countries over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

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