Bernard Phelan’s sister speaks of ‘unbelievable moment’ he walked free after Iran jail

Irishman looked forward to ‘a fry and Barry’s tea’ after return from arrest

Bernard Phelan was released from a Tehran prison following a sustained diplomatic campaign. Photograph: Laura Hutton / The Irish Times

The sister of Bernard Phelan, the Irishman released from jail In Tehran last week, has told of the family’s delight and relief at his release.

“We’re over the moon,” Caroline Masse-Phelan told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

The family had been alerted on Thursday that Mr Phelan might be released, but they knew from past experience that while it was “a strong possibility” they had got up their hopes in the past only to be disappointed.

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.


The Tánaiste, Micheál Martin, spoke with the family on Thursday to say it was possible that Bernard would be released, but it was not until he was in the air en route to Paris that they knew for certain, she said.

“It was touch and go for him whether he would be able to take off.”

It had been “an unbelievable moment to see him coming off the plane in France”, there had been “huge hugs” and they were joined by members of the Department of Foreign Affairs who flew to Paris to be with them. “The French team were there too, we had all bonded over the seven months,” she said.

Bernard spoke to his 97-year-old father Vincent by telephone. Their father had feared he would never see Bernard again, said Ms Masse-Phelan.

While her brother looked weak, he was overjoyed to be home, which was a boost to him, she said.

“He can’t get over the peace and quiet” having spent months in a cell with 16 others. “He put his bare feet in the grass on Saturday afternoon.”

Ms Masse-Phelan, when asked if she thought her brother had been well looked after as claimed by Iranian officials, responded: “We would not agree that he was well looked after. But he is home safe and that’s what matters”.

She went on to thank all who lobbied for the release of her brother – the TDs, MEPs, officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Tánaiste who phoned the family and the President who wrote to her father.

The first thing her brother was looking forward to having was “a fry and Barry’s tea”, she joked, but he was also very conscious of the other Europeans he left behind in the jail in Tehran.

“He’s very thankful to be one of the first home.”