JEDDAH: France on Thursday accused the regime in Iran of taking two of its citizens hostage after Tehran broadcast video footage of the couple making forced confessions to being spies.
French schoolteachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris were arrested in May on charges of fomenting “insecurity” in Iran. France condemned the arrests and demanded their immediate release.
In Thursday’s TV footage Kohler “confessed” to being an agent of the French external intelligence service, in Iran to “prepare the ground for the revolution and the overthrow of the regime of Islamic Iran.” Paris said: “Our goal at the French security service is to pressure the government of Iran.”
The video sparked anger in France. “The staging of their alleged confessions is outrageous, appalling, unacceptable and contrary to international law,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said.
“This masquerade reveals the contempt for human dignity that characterizes the Iranian authorities. These alleged confessions extracted under duress have no basis, nor did the reasons given for their arbitrary arrest.”
The French couple's appearance on TV coincides with weeks of anti-government protests in Iran over the death last month in morality police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. It also came a day after a debate in the French senate in which all political parties condemned Iran's crackdown on the protests.
Rights groups say Iranian state media broadcast more than 350 forced confessions between 2010 and 2020. Four French citizens are in jail in Iran and France is assessing whether another one may have been arrested during the current protests.
In a tweet on Oct. 5, the Human Rights Activists in Iran and 19 other human rights organizations asked US President Joe Biden in an open letter "to address the Iranian regime’s violent crackdown on the Mahsa Amini protests and Iran’s ongoing human rights crisis."
"The Iranian people need the support of the United States and the entire international community to attain their rights and freedoms," the letter said.