Families of prisoners accuse EU of 'ignoring' Iran's crimes

Relatives of French, Austrian, Swedish and German prisoners say their loved ones have been 'forgotten'

The relatives of German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd, who faces the death penalty in Iran, and three other families of prisoners have raised their cases with the EU. Photo: Gazelle Sharmahd
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The families of four Europeans jailed for several years by Iran have accused the European Union of ignoring the plight of their loved ones, who they say are being held hostage.

The open letter by the families to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accuses the bloc of “forgetting” about the prisoners.

The letter was signed by the sister of French citizen Benjamin Briere, the wife of Austrian Kamran Ghaderi, the wife of Swede Ahmadreza Djalali and the daughter of German citizen Jamshid Sharmahd.

“We, the families of French, Swedish, German and Austrian citizens who have been illegally detained by the Iranian regime, are outraged that the European Union seems to be ignoring these crimes,” the families said in the letter.

“All of them wonder whether EU officials have forgotten them and how much longer they will have to endure this ordeal.”

Mr Briere has been detained for two years after being sentenced to eight years in jail earlier this year on spying charges. He was arrested in May 2020 while travelling in Iran.

Mr Djalali has been in jail for six years and has been sentenced to death on espionage charges. He was arrested in April 2016 and convicted the following year of passing information to Israel's Mossad spy agency about two Iranian nuclear scientists that led to their assassinations.

The UN has previously said he should be freed and receive compensation due to an unfair trial using a confession obtained through torture.

Following a two-year stint in prison, Mr Sharmahd is now being tried on charges that may also lead him to be sentenced to death.

Mr Sharmahd, a critic of the regime who had been living in the US, has been accused of involvement in a 2008 mosque bombing in Iran that killed 14 people. He has denied any involvement in the attack but is currently standing trial without independent legal representation.

Mr Ghaderi has been held for almost seven years.

“These European citizens have been subjected to torture, grossly unfair trials based on fabricated charges, without access to legal counsel or proper medical care,” said the letter.

“All of them are held hostage by a dictatorial regime that does not even abide by the minimum standard of international legal and human rights.”

Iran insists the foreign citizens are being held in line with the law but humanitarian campaigners counter that, in the past, the nation has readily released foreigners in prisoner swaps or in apparent exchange for funds.

Earlier this week, Mr Borrell said he was “less confident” about efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, which was abandoned by former US president Donald Trump in 2018.

Activists believe a breakthrough in talks on the Iranian nuclear programme could speed up their release.

The New York-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran reported that there are currently about 20 dual citizens and foreigners with US or European passports detained in the country.

Updated: September 07, 2022, 3:26 PM