Irishman Bernard Phelan ‘just wants a fry up’ after release from Iranian prison

He was arrested in the Iranian city of Mashhad in October during a wave of anti-government protests.

Bernard Phelan had been detained in Iran since October last year.

Seoirse Mulgrew

The family of Irishman Bernard Phelan has said the first thing he wants on his return home is a good fry up and a cup of tea.

Mr Phelan (64) was released from an Iranian prison on Friday where he had been detained since last October.

He was ultimately let go on humanitarian grounds alongside a Frenchman who was on hunger strike.

The Tipperary man, who has French citizenship, is currently recuperating in hospital.

He was arrested in the Iranian city of Mashhad in October during a wave of anti-government protests.

The tourism operator was travelling across the country at the time of his arrest.

Mr Phelan was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in jail for espionage.

He and his family vehemently denied a charge levelled against him by the Iranian authorities of helping to incite propaganda against the Tehran government.

His sister Caroline Phelan said the family are “over the moon” to know that he is safe.

“We were informed by both French and Irish governments that there was a potential release coming up but we had been through those stages before, so we didn’t want to get our hopes up too much,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“The Tanaiste kindly rang me on Thursday to say that there was a very strong possibility that he would be released but just to keep calm and also that these things backfire and to remember that.

“But it was the greatest hope we had and then we didn’t know until he took off that he was on his way home really.”

“There were rumours and tweets and press on Thursday and Friday evening but until he had taken off nobody could confirm that he was on his way.

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

Ms Phelan said touching down in France and seeing her brother for the first time in over 200 days was an “amazing moment”.

She said her brother was weak but that his joy was “boosting him” up.

“It was an unbelievable moment, just couldn’t believe it. Even just walking off a plane in France after such stress and such a long time, huge hugs,” she said.

“The members of the Department of Foreign Affairs that had helped us in Dublin had flown over to be with us, so we were all in tears.

“The French team were there as well, and we’ve all bonded over these seven months.

“Of course, then we rang my father in Dublin, my father is 97 and he thought he’d never see his son again, so it was a very special moment for him too.”

Mr Phelan will remain in a French hospital over the coming days before returning home to Ireland.

“He can’t get over the peace and quiet, the silence after being in a cell with 16 other people. Having a bathroom. The day before he had his bare feet in the grass because he hadn’t seen grass for seven months,” Caroline said.

“They had a courtyard with big high walls, and they were only allowed out for 45 minutes a day – so just to put bare feet in the grass on a Saturday afternoon was heaven.

“He’s home safely and that’s what counts.

“I just can’t thank family and friends enough for lobbying and TDs raising Bernards issue in the Dáil, MEPs, the Department of Foreign Affairs team and of course the Tanaiste, and the president, who took the time to write to my father.”

Caroline said her brother is also very conscious of the other European citizens who are still stuck in Iran.

Mr Phelan suffered from multiple health issues including hypertensive cardiac disease, eyesight problems and chronic weight loss while in prison.

Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos