French-Irish citizen held in Iran in ‘critical’ health: France
A French-Irish citizen held in Iran since October 2022, who relatives say is on hunger strike, is in a critical state of health, a French diplomatic source said on Wednesday.
Bernard Phelan, a Paris-based travel consultant and one of seven French nationals held by Iran, was arrested in October while travelling and is being held in Mashhad in northeastern Iran.
The 64-year-old’s family has said he started a dry hunger strike on Monday, refusing water, in addition to the food hunger strike he had been on since the start of the year.
“He is showing serious signs of physical and psychological exhaustion,” said the French diplomatic source, adding he was in a “critical state”.
The Iranian authorities have so far refused to release Phelan on medical grounds despite repeated requests from the French and Irish authorities, the source said.
His sister Caroline Masse-Phelan told AFP on Wednesday that her brother was an innocent man detained for reasons “beyond our comprehension”.
She said his health condition meant he had to be released urgently.
“It’s a question of days,” she said. “He’s an innocent man caught in the middle of I don’t know what. He loves Iran, he is 64, sick, and wants to go home.”
“I think he is part of a group of Europeans imprisoned for political reasons… of which I know nothing,” she added.
“We have nothing to do with this story.”
Phelan is one of two dozen foreigners who are currently held in Iran, according to activists, who describe the detainees as “hostages” seized to extract concessions from the West.
Phelan was travelling through Mashhad during the ongoing protests against Iran’s clerical regime when he was arrested.
He is being held in Vakilabad prison in Mashhad.
Fellow French national Benjamin Briere, who was sentenced last year to eight years in prison on spying charges, is being held in the same prison.
“Bernard Phelan is in contact twice a day with the crisis unit of the French foreign ministry, which passes on the messages from his family,” the source said.
But requests for direct communication with the family have been turned down by the Iranian authorities.
Phelan received his first French consular visit only on January 9, after repeated requests, the diplomatic source added.