Iran jails French tourist for 5 years on national security charges; appeal filed

Paris calls verdict for Louis Arnaud ‘unacceptable,’ calls for release of all its nationals; family describes him as ‘passionate traveler,’ says he steered clear of Iran’s politics

Louis Arnaud, 35, who was arrested on September 28, 2022, as he was visiting Iran. He was sentenced to five years in prison in November 2023 on national security charges. (Handout/FAMILY HANDOUT/AFP)
Louis Arnaud, 35, who was arrested on September 28, 2022, as he was visiting Iran. He was sentenced to five years in prison in November 2023 on national security charges. (Handout/FAMILY HANDOUT/AFP)

PARIS, France — An Iranian court has ordered a five-year jail sentence against a French national tried on national security charges and held in prison for over a year, his family announced on Wednesday.

The French Foreign Ministry swiftly denounced the sentence against Louis Arnaud, calling it “unacceptable.”

Arnaud, a banking consultant, was detained in Iran in September last year and has been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Arnaud was handed the sentence by a Revolutionary Court on charges of making propaganda against and seeking to harm the security of the Islamic Republic, the family said in a statement.

The family said Arnaud was innocent of all charges and denounced the verdict as “an attack on human rights and individual freedoms.”

The statement described Arnaud as a “passionate traveler” who had long wanted to visit Iran.

File: Demonstrators wear T-shirts bearing photographs of Louis Arnaud, a French national who has been in detention in Iran, during a rally in support of him in front of the Hotel de Ville in Paris, on September 30, 2023. (Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

“Unfortunately, his dream turned into a nightmare when he was unjustly targeted, imprisoned, and now convicted on baseless charges, stripping him of his freedom and rights.”

It insisted he had “kept a distance from the social movements that were starting” while he was in Iran, in reference to the protest movement that erupted in September 2022.

“At no time did he act with political intentions or carelessness.”

Arnaud has lodged an appeal against the verdict, the family added.

The verdict has so far not been reported by Iranian media or publicly confirmed by the Iranian judiciary.

Arnaud is one of at least a dozen foreign nationals held by Tehran in what activists and Western governments have described as a deliberate hostage-taking strategy aimed at extracting concessions from the West.

The French Foreign Ministry expressed its “utmost concern” and said the sentence was “unacceptable.”

The ministry said “there is no evidence” to support the ruling and Arnaud had no access to a lawyer.

“We call for his immediate release, as well as that of all French citizens arbitrarily detained in Iran,” the ministry said in a statement.

Aside from Arnaud, three other French citizens are held by Iran: teacher Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris, and a man identified only by his first name, Olivier.

File: US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, right, greets freed Americans Siamak Namazi, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi, as well as two returnees whose names have not yet been released by the US government, who were released in a prisoner swap deal between US and Iran, as they arrive at Davison Army Airfield, September 19, 2023 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool via AP)

Several foreign prisoners have been released in recent months, including five Americans freed in a complex exchange for billions of dollars in Iranian funds that had been frozen in a South Korean account.

In May, Iran freed French prisoners Benjamin Briere and Bernard Phelan, the latter also an Irish national, after their health deteriorated during hunger strikes. French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah finally returned to France in October after being held for four and a half years.

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