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France slams Iranian video of detained ‘hostages’

France on Thursday condemned a video aired on Iranian state television showing “confessions” by two French nationals to fomenting unrest and formally described the detainees as hostages.

“Cecile Kohler and Jacques Paris have been arbitrarily detained in Iran since May 2022, and as such are state hostages,” the ministry said in an unusually harshly-worded statement.

“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 nationals in detention in Iran as “hostages” in a written statement, and the first time the pair have been officially named by France.

Teachers’ union official Kohler and her partner Paris have been accused by Iran of seeking to stir labour unrest during teachers’ strikes earlier this year.

In a video aired Thursday, a woman speaking French and claiming to be Kohler is heard saying that she is an “agent of the DGSE” French intelligence service.

The release of their alleged confessions comes as Iran grapples with a new wave of women-led protests that erupted on September 16 following 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 French foreign ministry 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,” it added.

At least two other French nationals are confirmed by Paris to be held in Iran — French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, detained since 2019, and tourist Benjamin Briere detained since 2020.

Western rights groups accuse Iran of persuing a deliberate policy to detain foreign nationals to extract concessions from the West, such as the release of frozen funds or liberation of Iranian nationals.