Middle East

Macron demands Iran release French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah

Issued on: 05/06/2020 – 18:07Modified: 05/06/2020 – 18:07

France on Friday urged Iran to release French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah as she marked one year behind bars, with supporters charging she is being used as a bargaining chip by Tehran in a political game.

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Adelkhah, an anthropologist specialising in Shia Islam, was arrested on June 5, 2019, and has been in prison ever since.

Last month she was given a five-year sentence after being convicted on national security charges.

She is one of several foreigners and dual nationals being held by Iran in what activists condemn as a policy of hostage-taking aimed at pressuring the West.

Born in Iran in 1959 but living in France since 1977, Adelkhah has maintained her innocence, and colleagues and other supporters have rubbished the charges against her. She went on a 49-day hunger strike to protest her conditions.

"My message to the Iranian authorities: justice demands that our compatriot be released immediately," French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter, calling her detention "unacceptable."

To mark the anniversary, her picture was displayed by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on the facade of the French capital's city hall with the slogan: "Her fight for freedom is ours."

"Fariba Adelkhah is a hostage of the Iranian government," Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate and rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who now lives in exile, said in a video message.

"The Tehran government uses dual nationals by taking them hostage and using them to achieve its own political agenda," she said.

But Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Moussavi warned Paris against interfering in the case.

"Mrs Adelkhah has been the subject of an independent and fair judicial procedure," he said, adding that "political pressure and media campaigns will in no way prevent the carrying out of her sentence."

'Settling of scores'

Adelkhah was arrested with her partner Roland Marchal, a fellow academic at the Sciences Po university in Paris specialising in Africa.

He told RTL radio that her state was "like that of other detainees; there are moments when she is combative and fights for freedom, and others that are more difficult."

Marchal was freed and returned to France in March after French authorities released Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who risked extradition to the United States on accusations of violating sanctions.

This week, Michael White, an American held in Iran for nearly two years, returned home, with the US allowing two Iranian scientists to go back to their country.

In December, Iran also freed US academic Xiyue Wang in exchange for scientist Massoud Soleimani, and said it was open to further swaps.

Such apparent exchanges have made Adelkhah's supporters fear that Iran will be looking for something in return for her liberation.

Her support group of fellow academics believe that she was arrested because of an "internRead More – Source