Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 29 January 2020

Iran refuses to release French academics despite Emmanuel Macron pressure

An Iranian foreign ministry official said ‘interference’ in state matters was unacceptable

French President Emmanuel Macron called Iran's detention of two academics 'intolerable'. AFP
French President Emmanuel Macron called Iran's detention of two academics 'intolerable'. AFP

Iran has rejected calls by Emmanuel Macron to release two detained French academics and described the President’s intervention as “interference”.

Mr Macron, who has sought to play a mediating role as Iran struggles with US sanctions, had described the imprisonment of Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal as “intolerable” and urged President Hassan Rouhani to release them “without delay”.

Both are researchers at Science-Po university and were arrested in June on espionage charges. Ms Adelkhah is believed to be detained in the notorious Evin jail where numerous human rights abuses are alleged to have been committed.

"Iran's government and judiciary do not take advice from others ... Interference in our state matters is unacceptable," IRNA quoted foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi as saying.

A prisoner swap between Iran and the US at the weekend had raised hopes Tehran would release the many foreign nationals it holds on seemingly dubious charges.

The regime also has a history of arresting foreign academics and giving them long sentences amid claims they were spies.

On Tuesday, Ms Adelkhah and Mr Marchal were set to be released on bail following a decision by an Iranian judge. But this was opposed by the prosecution and the case will now be referred to Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which typically deals with high profile cases.

"The bail for my clients had been issued and the judge had agreed to their release on bail," the men’s lawyer Saeed Dehghan was quoted as saying by ISNA.

"Though delayed, this decision was legal, but the deputy prosecutor opposed the opinion of the judge," said the lawyer.

As a result, "the matter must be sent to a competent court to settle disputes... which in this case is the Revolutionary Court."

Science Po described Ms Adelkhah, who is a dual French-Iranian national, as a “formidable field researcher” who had travelled to the heart of Afghanistan despite the widespread presence of the Taliban.

“The accusations of spying which will be laid against her as part of the game of diplomatic blackmail which certain Iranian decision-makers have seen fit to initiate against France have the credibility of the prosecutors of the Moscow Trials,” said a biography posted on Science Po’s website and written by Jean-Francois Bayart of IHEID Geneva.

Mr Marchal is an expert on East Africa and in particular Somalia.

“Roland is known for his strong stances that reflect his uncompromising quest for intellectual honesty and humanistic values. He is an ardent defender of the prominent role that sociology should play in the public debate,” said a biography by Didier Péclard, University of Geneva, and Sandrine Perrot of Sciences Po.

Updated: December 12, 2019 01:48 PM

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