Irish man ‘held hostage’ in Iran sentenced to 6½ years, family says – The Irish Times

Irishman Bernard Phelan, who has been held in Iran since last October, has been sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison by Iranian authorities, according to his family.

Mr Phelan, 64, who also holds a French passport, is being held on fabricated charges and is “a pawn” in a broader geopolitical game, his cousin Greg O’Corry Crowe has said.

The Phelan family say they are increasingly concerned about Bernard’s health and that he is being “held hostage” by the Iranian government. They say he is being held in conditions amounting to torture and has complex health problems that are not being treated.

“We’re afraid he won’t last much longer,” said his cousin Patricia Phelan. “His Life Ebbs”

The Phelan family held a press conference on Wednesday to highlight the 155 days of Bernard’s incarceration in the notorious Vakilabad prison and to urge the Irish government to shelve plans to open an embassy in Tehran.

They said Mr Phelan was brought before a judge in prison on February 20 and sentenced to 3 1/2 years for “supplying information to an enemy country”, a charge he denies.

He was then informed that he would be granted a pardon on humanitarian grounds.

He was brought back to court a week later and told there would be no pardon and that his sentence is now six and a half years, Patricia Phelan said. She said the family had not received any further information

Irish diplomats have been working alongside their French counterparts to secure Mr Phelan’s release on medical grounds. Tánaiste and Foreign Minister Micheál Martin told the Dáil he had discussed Mr Phelan’s case with his Iranian counterpart.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Affairs did not respond to inquiries about the sentencing or calls from the Phelan family to abandon plans for an Irish embassy in Tehran.

“The Government is extremely concerned about the case of Irish national Bernard Phelan, particularly given Mr Phelan’s poor health,” the spokeswoman said, adding that the Government was “extensively engaged” in the matter.

“This commitment underscores the urgent importance of Mr. Phelan’s humanitarian release given his deteriorating health.

The Iranian embassy did not respond to inquiries. She previously told the Irish Times that she is also working to secure Mr Phelan’s release.

Mr O’Corry-Crowe said the State Department’s message was to “be patient” but they could not afford to wait any longer due to Mr Phelan’s deteriorating health. Mr Phelan’s father, Vincent, 97, said he feared he would never see his son again.

“What’s the point of having an embassy in Iran if Irish citizens cannot travel to the country without fear of arbitrary arrest?” asked Mr O’Corry-Crowe.

Mr. Phelan, originally from Tipperary, traveled to Iran last October in connection with his work as a tourism consultant. It was his fifth trip to the country while working for an Iranian tour operator.

While on a research trip to the northeast city of Mashhad, he was taking photos of a historic mosque when he was dragged into a car by a masked man and taken to jail, his family says.

He was initially held in solitary confinement and for two weeks his family did not know what had happened to him. He was then taken to the prison hospital before being put in a cell with more than 15 other prisoners.

The cell has no glass in the windows and temperatures can drop to near freezing at night. Mr. Phelan has significant heart problems and requires follow-up care for an operation that was performed on his eyes shortly before his arrest. Without treatment, he could go blind, his family says.

Patricia Phelan said the family managed to persuade Mr Phelan to call off a recent hunger and thirst strike but are afraid he will start again.

“He’s in a very dark place. He has little hope for his future,” she said. Irish man ‘held hostage’ in Iran sentenced to 6½ years, family says – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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