Iran says French pair held for trying to stir unrest
Iran on Tuesday said it arrested two French nationals this month for allegedly attempting to foment unrest by meeting with representatives of teachers’ unions, in a report on state television.
The broadcaster aired footage of the pair, a 37-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man, from the moment they set foot in the Islamic republic on April 28 until their arrest on May 7.
“The two entered Iran with tourist visas… but monitoring and surveillance of their movements and meetings by Iran’s intelligence ministry showed they were not in fact tourists,” the report said.
“Iran’s intelligence ministry monitored the two individuals in organisational meetings and in coordination with some people who consider themselves members of the teachers’ union,” it added.
France last week condemned the arrest in Iran of two French citizens as “baseless” and called for their immediate release. It did not name the pair.
Iran had only previously announced the arrest of two Europeans on what the intelligence ministry said were accusations of seeking to “destabilise the country”.
Their arrest comes after a months-long campaign by teachers in Iran calling for the government to speed up the implementation of reforms that would see their salaries better reflect their experience and performance.
Protesters have been calling on the authorities to release teachers detained at similar demonstrations.
Tuesday’s television report also included an audio file allegedly belonging to the two, as well as accusations that they had been “attempting to form a kind of protest to foment unrest”.
In the recording, the voice of a female is alleged to be heard saying, “it is a battle to get the majority of Iranians”, in English.
The voice of a male then allegedly responds by saying, “we ought to build a revolutionary package”, also in English.
Earlier this month, the New York-based Human Rights Watch appealed for the release of almost 40 teachers arrested at events surrounding nationwide demonstrations on May 1.
In April, teachers’ union member Rasoul Bodaghi was sentenced to five years in prison for taking part in the protests, according to a human rights group.
Iran’s economy has been reeling under punishing sanctions that have been imposed on the country by the United States since 2018, with civil servants among the hardest hit.
The country last week announced a series of measures to tackle mounting economic challenges, such as changing a subsidy system and raising the prices of staple goods including cooking oil and dairy products.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in a number of Iranian cities to protest the government’s decision, including in Tehran province, state news agency IRNA reported.