Hunger-striking Frenchman charged by Iran with spying goes on trial

PARIS — A Frenchman held in Iran for over a year and a half on spying charges, which his family has rejected, went on trial today severely weakened by a hunger strike, his family and lawyer say.

Benjamin Briere, 36, was arrested in May 2020 while traveling in Iran. He began the hunger strike in December to protest, among other issues, the lack of any serious advance in the proceedings.

His family says he is an innocent tourist unknowingly caught up as global powers including France and the US seek to negotiate with Tehran a revival of a 2015 deal over its nuclear program.

“We have very little information, all we know is that the hearing took place and that a verdict will be issued on Saturday,” his sister Blandine Briere tells AFP.

She adds that an Iranian lawyer representing her brother and an interpreter were present for the hearing.

According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the hearing took place in branch four of the Revolutionary Court in the eastern city of Mashhad, where Briere is being held.

His Paris-based lawyer, Philippe Valent, said in a statement yesterday that Briere was “very weakened” by his hunger strike, and had not been allowed to learn what specific charges had been brought against him.

Valent confirms that the hearing had taken place and says a verdict was expected from Saturday, the first day of the week in Iran.

The HRANA says Briere is still on a hunger strike.

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