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French-Iranian academic held in Iran since 2019 back in France

French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah has returned to France after being held for four-and-a-half years in Iran.

Adelkhah was arrested in Iran in 2019 and charged with endangering national security but was considered a hostage by supporters
Adelkhah was arrested in Iran in 2019 and charged with endangering national security but was considered a hostage by supporters - Copyright Sciences Po/AFP/File Thomas ARRIVE
Adelkhah was arrested in Iran in 2019 and charged with endangering national security but was considered a hostage by supporters - Copyright Sciences Po/AFP/File Thomas ARRIVE
Stuart WILLIAMS

French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah has returned to France, her university said Wednesday, after being held for four-and-a-half years in Iran in a case that added to tensions between Paris and Tehran.

Adelkhah was arrested in June 2019 and convicted on national security charges that her supporters have denounced as absurd.

She was released from prison in February but remained unable to leave Iran.

A well-known researcher in Iranian Shiite religion and politics, Adelkhah landed back in Paris on Tuesday, according to her employer Sciences Po University, which had set up a support group to win her release.

“After so many years of being deprived of her freedom, what an emotion to finally welcome home our colleague Fariba, a symbol of our battle for academic freedom,” said university director Mathias Vicherat in a statement.

Adelkhah was one of some two dozen foreign nationals held by Tehran in what activists and Western governments have described as a deliberate strategy of hostage-taking aimed at extracting concessions from the West.

Several of the foreign prisoners have been released in recent months, including five Americans freed in a complex exchange for billions of dollars in Iranian funds that had been frozen in a South Korean account.

In May, Iran freed French prisoners Benjamin Briere and Bernard Phelan, the latter also an Irish national, after their health deteriorated during hunger strikes.

But around a dozen foreigners remain held by Iran including four French citizens: teacher Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris, Louis Arnaud, described by his family as an innocent traveller, and a man identified only as Olivier.

– Innocent traveller –

In a call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the weekend to discuss the current conflict between Hamas and Israel, French President Emmanuel Macron “reiterated his deep concern” over the detainees and requested their immediate release, his office said in a statement.

Adelkhah said in a statement through her supporters: “I think of my former fellow women prisoners at Evin (prison in Tehran) and my French compatriots, Cecile, Jacques, Louis and Olivier, who have not yet regained their freedom.”

She was arrested in June 2019 along with her French colleague and partner Roland Marchal.

Marchal was released in March 2020 in an apparent prisoner swap after France released Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who faced extradition to the United States over accusations he had violated US sanctions against Iran.

Adelkhah was sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison for conspiring against national security.

She was allowed home in Tehran from October 2020 with an electronic bracelet but was then returned to jail in January 2022.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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