France condemns 'confession' video broadcast by Iran of two 'hostages'

Foreign ministry hits out at 'arbitrary detainment' of Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris in Tehran

Iranian riot police on a street in Tehran. Reuters
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France has condemned a video which aired on Iranian television that claims to show confessions by two French citizens it calls "state hostages".

The video, released on Thursday by the state-run Irna news agency, showed Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris, who are union members associated with France’s National Federation of Education, Culture and Vocational Training.

The pair were arrested five months ago for allegedly seeking to stir labour unrest during teachers' strikes.

In the video, Ms Kohler said she was an "agent of the DGSE", the French intelligence service.

She said herself and Mr Paris were in Iran "to prepare the conditions for the revolution and the overthrow of the Iranian Islamist regime" and had planned to finance strikes and demonstrations and even use weapons "to fight against the police".

The French Foreign Ministry issued an unusually harshly-worded statement in response.

"Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris have been arbitrarily detained in Iran since May 2022 and as such are state hostages," it said.

"The staging of their supposed confessions is shameful, revolting, unacceptable and contrary to international law."

It was the first time the ministry had described French citizens in detention in Iran as "hostages" in a written statement, and the first time the pair had been officially identified by France.

The clip resembled other videos Iran has forced prisoners to make. In 2020, one report suggested that over the past decade, authorities had broadcast at least 355 coerced confessions.

The release comes as Iran grapples with a new wave of women-led protests that erupted on September 16 after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

"These supposed confessions, extracted under duress, are just as baseless as the reasons given for their arbitrary detention," the foreign ministry in France said.

"Such manipulations and practices worthy of the show trials of the worst dictatorial regimes will not distract international attention from the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people."

Ms Kohler and Mr Paris have been detained since May 7.

Later that month, Iran said it had arrested two French citizens who had entered the country on tourist visas.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 12:54 PM