French national still in Iran jail despite acquittal: lawyer

French citizen Benjamin Briere is still in an Iranian jail despite his recent acquittal by an appeals court, his lawyer said Thursday.

Briere was detained in May 2020, and later sentenced to eight years in prison for espionage.

He is one of several foreigners who campaigners say Iran has jailed in a strategy of hostage-taking to extract concessions from the West.

Briere’s France-based lawyer, Philippe Valent, said in a statement sent to AFP that an Iranian appeals court had cleared his client of all charges and ordered his release on February 15.

But Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the branch of the security forces entrusted with the preservation of the regime, “are keeping him imprisoned despite this declaration of innocence”, he said.

“His release was prevented at the last moment,” he told AFP.

The French foreign ministry, when contacted, said it was “concerned about the situation of Mr Briere,” adding that “France is calling for the immediate release of all French nationals”.

Held in the prison of Vakilabad in the eastern city of Mashhad, Briere is continuing a hunger strike which he started a month ago, and is “exhausted physically and mentally”, Valent said.

Valent, who had previously described the espionage charges against his client as “fiction”, said Thursday their “arbitrary nature” was “blatantly obvious”.

A copy of the appeals court judgement he showed AFP stated that Briere “was not present in the forbidden and sensitive places of the country and did not take any pictures or videos” of those places.

He was “only a foreign tourist” whose “personal items and equipment were not used for espionage”, it said.

“There is not sufficient evidence to establish a crime, and the verdict is issued for the acquittal of Mr. Benjamin Briere,” it read.

Valent said Briere’s family was demanding his immediate

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New Orleans short-term rental rule barring out-of-state owners unconstitutional, appeals court says | Business News

A key provision of New Orleans’ short-term rental law that at to slow the industry’s spread into city neighborhoods has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, dealing a blow to housing advocates who fought to get the law passed three years ago and potentially reshaping the local short-term rental market.

A three-judge panel of the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday that the 2019 ordinance illegally discriminates against out-of-state property owners.

The law, like those in other cities, bans “whole-home” rentals in residential areas and requires license holders in those areas to prove they live full-time on the lots they list. But in the ruling, which could force a near-total rewrite of the city’s rules, US Circuit Court Judge Jerry Smith said that restricting licenses to city residents violates the commerce clause of the US Constitution by shutting others out of the market.

“The city doesn’t just make it more difficult for (out-of-state owners) to compete in the market for STRs in residential neighborhoods; it forbids them from participating altogether,” Smith wrote in his unanimous decision.

The ruling doesn’t automatically strike down the law, which imposes rules for short-term rentals in both residential and commercial areas and also bans them in the French Quarter and the Garden District. But it will let the short-term rental owners who sued the city in a 2019 federal lawsuit request that a US District judge kill portions of the law, said attorney Dawn Wheelahan, who represents the plaintiffs.

That would potentially allow an increase in short-term rentals as out-of-state owners list their properties or purchase new ones to list.

“All that’s left for me to do is go to the district court and ask to enjoin the city’s ordinance, which I will do,” Wheelahan said. “(The city) will

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