Irish man Bernard Phelan flies home to France following release from prison in Iran

Man, originally from Co Tipperary, had been ‘arbitrarily’ detained since last October in ‘very difficult ordeal’ for him and his family

Irishman Bernard Phelan, who had been “arbitrarily” detained in Iran since last October, has been released from prison and is being flown back to his home in France.

Mr Phelan (64), originally from Co Tipperary, was arrested a number of months ago during protests against the Iranian regime. His family said he had been wrongly sentenced to serve 6½ years in prison in the Middle Eastern country.

On Friday afternoon Mr Phelan left Iran on a flight to France, where he is expected to arrive later tonight.

Mr Phelan works for an Iranian tour operator, and has dual Irish-French nationality. He was travelling on a French passport at the time of his arrest.


In a statement from his family, his sister Caroline Phelan said we “cannot express how relieved we are” at the news of Mr Phelan’s release.

“So many people have been involved in making this moment happen and we want to thank everybody. Bernard has been held captive for over 200 days, so at this time we gratefully ask that he is given the time and space needed to recover,” she said.

His family had campaigned for his release in recent months, highlighting major concerns about his deteriorating mental and physical health, as well as the conditions he has been held in.

In a post on Twitter on Thursday, the Iranian embassy in Dublin said “constructive diplomatic engagement” between Ireland and Iran had resulted in the “pardoning and releasing” of Mr Phelan. The embassy said he had been released “on consular and humanitarian grounds”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin confirmed on Friday that Mr Phelan had been released from prison in Iran and was “now on his way home to his family”.

In a statement, Mr Martin said the last seven months had been “a very difficult ordeal for Bernard and for his family”.

The Fianna Fáil leader said many people had worked “tirelessly” to see him released.

“I am deeply appreciative of the efforts of the French Government and my counterpart, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, for their work to resolve this case,” he said.

Mr Martin also acknowledged the assistance of Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, as well as Irish diplomats in Dublin and in Tehran.

He said he had “continually stressed” the urgency of Mr Phelan’s release, which had been a “key priority” for him as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Irish diplomats, along with their French counterparts, had been working to secure Mr Phelan’s release on health grounds.

Mr Phelan has significant heart issues and his family previously expressed serious concern for his health after he attempted to go on hunger strike in protest against his detention.

His family said he was detained by Iranian authorities while on a research trip in the city of Mashhad, where he was bundled into a car by masked men and taken to prison.

President Michael D Higgins welcomed the release, thanking “all of those, on all sides, who have worked to secure this positive outcome for Bernard Phelan and his family.

“Mr Phelan’s release will come as a particular relief to Bernard’s father, Vincent, with whom I have been in correspondence, and to all of his family and friends who have worked with such dignity to secure his return home.

“As President of Ireland, I strongly welcome his release by the Iranian authorities, after what I know has been a very distressing time.”

In a statement, Amnesty International Ireland welcomed the release of Mr Phelan, who the organisation said had been “arbitrarily detained” in Iran.

The human rights organisation said it remained “deeply concerned” at Iran’s practice of detaining dual- and foreign-nationals to use as leverage.

The statement said Mr Phelan should receive “reparations” from Iran, due to the “gravity of violations of his fair trial rights”, such as the lack of access to an independent lawyer of his choosing.

Matt Carthy TD, Sinn Féin spokesman on foreign affairs, also criticised the fact Mr Phelan had been detained on “trumped up espionage charges” by Iranian authorities.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times