Iran now holds five French citizens as EU prepares sanctions

Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna admits a fifth citizen has been detained during anti-government protests in Iran

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said she will again demand that Iran release all of the French citizens it has detained. Reuters
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Five French citizens are now being held by Iran, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told local radio on Tuesday, as the EU takes steps to sanction Tehran over its crackdown on nationwide protests.

France last week accused Iran of “dictatorial practices” and taking its citizens hostage after a video was aired in which a French couple appeared to confess to spying.

The arrests came after weeks of widespread protests in Iran following the death of a young Kurdish-Iranian woman in the custody of the country's "morality police".

She was reportedly detained for breaching Iran’s strict dress code on women.

“I hope to speak to the Iranian foreign minister today to ask once again for the immediate release of all our compatriots who are held in Iran,” Ms Colonna told France Inter radio.

“There are currently five.”

Until now, Paris had not confirmed that a fifth citizen was detained during the protests. Iran said last month that nine Europeans had been arrested during the unrest.

France urged its citizens to leave Iran as soon as possible, saying they were exposed to the risk of arbitrary detentions.

Ms Colonna on Tuesday called on Tehran to release two French citizens in a call with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian who slammed European "interference" in his country's internal affairs.

She "brought up the situation of our citizens arbitrarily detained in Iran and reiterated our call for their immediate release", France's Foreign Ministry said.

"She recalled the unacceptable nature of the alleged television confessions" by two French citizens, French teachers' union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris, aired by Tehran last week.

They have been held by Iran since May.

Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent weeks as efforts to revive nuclear talks in which France is one of the parties have stalled. Neither country has an ambassador in place.

The anti-government protests in Iran over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody last month have prompted the EU to follow the US, Canada and Britain in imposing sanctions.

“The EU agreed yesterday on the technical aspects of a sanctions package that will target those behind the repression.

“It will be validated on Monday,” Ms Colonna said, referring to a scheduled meeting of EU foreign ministers.

Updated: October 11, 2022, 11:26 PM