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French Weekly Reveals Iranian Regime’s Role in Hostage Release and MEK Targeting

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The recent release of French citizen Louis Arnaud from Iranian imprisonment has taken a controversial turn, as detailed in a comprehensive report by the French weekly Journal du Dimanche. The publication alleges that Arnaud’s freedom was not a mere act of goodwill from Tehran but a calculated move within a broader political strategy, highlighting the Iranian regime’s persistent use of hostage diplomacy.

Arnaud, a 35-year-old consultant, was detained in Iran in September 2022 on suspicions of participating in protests against the death of Mahsa Amini. His release, announced by President Emmanuel Macron on social media last Wednesday, was warmly received across France. However, Journal du Dimanche suggests that the release was contingent on a significant concession from the French government: the inspection of facilities belonging to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), a group that poses a substantial threat to the Iranian regime.

According to the publication, on June 12, at 3 PM, a coordinated inspection took place at the “Sima” association premises in Saint-Ouen-l’Aumône, involving police, gendarmerie, and specialized agents. The operation resulted in the arrest of three volunteers from the association, who were subsequently held in administrative detention.

Journal du Dimanche highlights a concerning coincidence. Mere hours after the French authorities conducted their search, Kazem Gharibabadi, a deputy at the regime’s Judiciary, congratulated the French police on their operation against the “terrorists” of the MEK. He emphasized that the Iranian regime closely monitored the operation live, indicating Tehran’s vested interest in the raid.

Worse still, the Tasnim News Agency, closely affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, falsely reported that the raid uncovered several weapons at the MEK premises. This claim was quickly debunked by a French police source, who stated, “No weapons were found on the premises.” The weekly underscores how such fabrications by Iranian state media aim to discredit the MEK and serve the regime’s propaganda needs.

Journal du Dimanche questions the timing of events, suggesting a deliberate political exchange. Within a day, Arnaud was freed, and the MEK’s facilities were inspected, inadvertently fueling Iranian propaganda. When questioned about this potential quid pro quo, the French Interior Ministry declined to comment.

Further complicating the narrative, the MEK pointed to an article in Le Monde published just three days before Arnaud’s release. The piece, titled “We Are the Child Soldiers of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran,” was perceived by the MEK as a deliberate smear campaign. According to Alaeddin Touran, a member of the MEK, Le Monde sent a questionnaire to the organization only 48 hours before the article’s release. Despite the MEK’s efforts to respond, the publication claimed they refused to comment, dismissing their witnesses as “disreputable agents of the Iranian regime.”

Journal du Dimanche also reported on “Association Nejat,” a lobbying group linked to the Iranian regime, which praised the le Monde article on social media. This group’s enthusiastic dissemination of the article underscores the ongoing efforts to undermine the MEK’s credibility in the West.

This incident is part of a long-standing strategy by the Iranian regime, which has used hostage-taking as a political bargaining tool since the 1980s. The weekly underscores how the regime leverages such tactics to gain political concessions from Western governments, a process that continues to cast a shadow over diplomatic relations.