Iran airs video with 2 French citizens it claims were spying

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran on Thursday released video showing two detained French nationals who allegedly confessed to acting on behalf of a French security service. The scenes were released amid ongoing protests shaking the country, which Tehran has tried to describe as a foreign conspiracy rather than local anger over the death of a 22-year-old arrested by the country’s morality police.

The video, released by the state news agency IRNA, showed two Frenchmen, Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris, who are unionists with the French National Confederation for Education, Culture and Vocational Training.

Iran, which has long used jailed Westerners as a bargaining chip, has previously provided no public evidence to support the espionage allegations.

European Union lawmakers, meanwhile, on Thursday passed a resolution calling for sanctions on those responsible for the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran’s morality police custody and the Islamic Republic’s subsequent crackdown on anti-government protests.

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The resolution, passed by a show of hands, calls on the 27-nation bloc to impose sanctions on Iranian officials and calls for an investigation into Amini’s death.

“Parliament strongly condemns the widespread and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian security forces against the crowds,” the resolution reads in part. The lawmakers also demanded that Iran “immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against anyone detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and all other human rights defenders.”

Iran’s outburst of anger – largely led by young women and directed against the male leadership of the government – created a landmark moment for the country and sparked some of the biggest and boldest protests against the country’s Islamic leadership in years.

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The clips released Thursday are similar to other videos Tehran has forced prisoners to watch. In 2020, a report suggested that authorities had aired at least 355 forced confessions over the past decade.

Kohler wears a headscarf in the clips and allegedly describes herself as an “intelligence and operational agent of the French foreign security service”. Paris reportedly says: “Our goal in the French foreign security service is to put pressure on the Iranian government.”

The clips are part of a reportedly forthcoming documentary to be aired on Iranian state television that will accuse them of bringing money into the country to foment dissent.

France did not immediately respond to the release of the video clips. In May, however, the French government called for their release and condemned “these groundless arrests”.

Her visit to Iran coincides with months of protests by teachers demanding higher wages in the country.

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Any EU sanctions would fall under the bloc’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. It was set up two years ago to enable the bloc to “target individuals, entities and bodies – including state and non-state actors – responsible for, involved in, or associated with gross human rights violations and abuses around the world”.

Other human rights violations or abuses may be included “if they are widespread, systematic or otherwise of serious concern”.

These measures typically consist of travel bans and asset freezes of officials accused of involvement in alleged abuses or “entities” such as banks, corporations, agencies or other organizations. It prevents EU citizens from providing funds to the listed people.

Associated Press writers Lorne Cook in Prague and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.

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