Skip to main content

Activists file torture complaint against Iranian held in France

Iranian Bashir Biazar may now face a torture trial rather than expulsion from France
— Paris (AFP)

Activists said Thursday they were filing a torture complaint against an Iranian citizen held in France who was reportedly a former senior figure in state television in the Islamic republic.

Bashir Biazar has been held in administrative detention in France since June 3 pending expulsion from the country for separate reasons, at a time of strained relations between Paris and Tehran.

His lawyer has denounced his detention and planned expulsion as "political" while officials in Iran have condemned France over his arrest and urged his release.

Activist group Iran Justice and victims of human rights violations filed the complaint against Biazar in Paris. If the court decides to follow up on it, he could be kept in France to stand trial.

It accuses Biazar of complicity in torture due to his past work with Iranian state broadcasting conglomerate IRIB, describing him as a former director of production there.

Iranian state media have described him as a "cultural figure".

The complaint refers to the regular broadcasts by Iranian state television of statements by -- and even interviews with -- Iranian or foreign prisoners, which activists regard as forced confessions.

There are "serious indications" that Biazar could have been "personally involved" in the recording of such broadcasts, said lawyer Chirinne Ardakani.

The complaint also accuses him of acting on French soil as an agent of the Islamic republic, seeking to gather information on exiled activists and journalists and to intimidate them.

Ardakani said that the complaint aimed to block his expulsion back to Iran so that "all questioning and investigations can be carried out to reveal the truth".

- 'Rule of law' -

Biazar was detained in the eastern city of Dijon and is now being held in administrative detention -- a measure taken ahead of possible deportation -- in the city of Metz, further north.

In Paris, a police source who asked not to be named told AFP that "expulsion proceedings" had been initiated against Biazar "in particular because he publicly made anti-French remarks", without specifying their nature.

Biazar has in past months been active on social media, making remarks strongly supporting Palestinians amid the war between Israel and militant group Hamas in Gaza.

"There is nothing, in terms of law, that justifies this measure," his French lawyer, Rachid Lemoudaa, told AFP, referring to the expulsion proceedings.

"Bashir Biazar expressed himself on his Instagram account, as anyone could do freely in a state governed by the rule of law."

His client, who he said intended to start a hunger strike, "is the subject of an expulsion order but his administrative detention was extended by 28 days on June 6.

"I think this procedure is political, and politics has no place in law," Lemoudaa added.

In Tehran, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said earlier this month he hoped for Biazar's release "as soon as possible".

The ministry "will continue to take the necessary measures until the expected result is achieved", he added.

And on Monday, the head of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights, Kazem Gharibabadi, also denounced his detention.

"The arrest of an Iranian citizen by the French police for having defended the oppressed Palestinian people (is) another scandal for France in the domain of human rights," he posted on X.

- 'State hostages' -

French newspaper Le Monde said the expulsion decree issued by the French interior ministry accused Biazar of being an "Iranian agent of influence linked to the intelligence services" of Iran. His lawyer vehemently denied the charge.

Three French citizens, described by Paris as "state hostages", are currently imprisoned in Iran.

A fourth French detainee, Louis Arnaud, held in Iran since September 2022, was released suddenly last week.

Sweden at the weekend released Hamid Noury, a former Iranian official it had jailed over the 1988 mass executions of dissidents in Iran, in exchange for two Swedes jailed in the Islamic republic.

The exchange was bitterly criticised by campaigners who had fought for Noury to be bought to justice under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and by the family of Swedish citizen Ahmad Reza Jalali, who faces the death penalty in Iran and was not included in the deal.