May 11e, Iran announced that it had arrested two European nationals for allegedly trying to sow chaos and “destabilize the country”, according to France 24. French authorities finally established that those arrested were Cécile Kohler, international representative from the education union, and her partner, who disappeared while on vacation in Iran. The Iranian government has accused inmates of encouraging chaos and violence during teacher protests that have swept the country for the past two years, ABC News reported. It is unclear whether Kohler and his partner were involved in teachers’ unions in Iran.
A Swedish citizen was also detained in Iran a week earlier – the same week the trial of Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official accused of war crimes, ended in Stockholm.
The French embassy in Tehran pressured the authorities to release the detainees. In a statement published by France 24, the French Foreign Ministry said: “The French government condemns this groundless arrest. It calls for the immediate release of these two French nationals.
Iran has a long history of detaining European and American citizens, which has led human rights groups to accuse the country of using these prisoners as bargaining chips. That may be the case in this case, as the arrests took place the same week that EU envoy Enrique Mora visited Tehran to discuss the stalled Iran nuclear deal.
The Iran nuclear deal was first signed in 2015 and provided sanctions relief against Iran in exchange for strict control of Iranian nuclear energy. In 2018, US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the deal and Iran then began ignoring provisions of the deal, such as allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to observe nuclear facilities. .
The US and EU have been trying to revive the deal since 2021. However, talks stalled in mid-March 2022 after the US refused to withdraw the Revolutionary Guards, a branch of the Iranian army which protects the political system of the Islamic republic, from its terrorist list. A bipartisan majority of politicians in the US Senate refuses to support a deal that does not address Iran’s involvement in terrorism in the Middle East, leading to a stalemate.
Enrique Mora did not divulge details of his visit to Tehran beyond saying he is “hopeful”, according to the Washington Post.
Iran should not use the release of foreign detainees in its negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal, or in retaliation for actions in other countries. The international diplomatic community must do everything possible to ensure that these European prisoners are released and kept out of any agreement under the agreement. EU and US citizens should also avoid traveling to Iran, as Iran has demonstrated its disregard for human rights and rule of law on many occasions.