Fears are growing for an Irishman being held in an Iranian hellhole prison for the past three months.
Bernard Phelan was jailed in October after he was charged with inciting propaganda against the regime. The 64-year-old, who was working as a tour operator in the Middle East country, denies all the charges.
Bernard, who is from Tipperary but who lives in France, had been travelling on a French passport. It is understood that he was arrested in the city of Mashhad on October 3 accused of taking pictures of police and a mosque that had been burned.
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He has since been further charged with engaging in propaganda, sending pictures to the Guardian newspaper, and stealing two pieces of pottery.
But his family fear he is being held in a political dispute between Iran and France who they claim are stirring up protests. Bernard, who suffers from a heart condition, is being held at Vakilabad Prison – known for mass executions – in a cell with 16 other inmates.
There is no window and temperatures drop to -5C at night. His sister Caroline Masse-Phelan said he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” and usually used his Irish passport.
She added: “It’s a political issue. On the Irish side, there is no reason for him to be held. He should be released.”
And Bernard’s 97-year-old dad Vincent has written to Iran’s ambassador to Ireland Dr Masoud Eslami.
Vincent said: “Bernard was supposed to be with me for my birthday in November and Christmas. I fear that I will never see him again.”
Speaking to The Irish Times, the family said his health has deteriorated. The Department of Foreign Affairs said they had been providing consular assistance, in close co-ordination with France, since the outset”.
A spokesperson added: “The case has also been raised directly with the Iranian authorities.
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