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Prominent French academic detained alongside dual-national colleague in June

Iran has held a prominent French academic in detention since June [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 October, 2019

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French academic Roland Marchal was arrested with his Franco-Iranian colleague Fariha Adelkah in June.

A prominent French academic has been in detention in Iran since June, when he was arrested with his Franco-Iranian colleague, a researchers' group announced Wednesday.

Roland Marchal, a sociologist whose research focuses on civil wars in Africa, and Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist, both work at the Sciences Po university in Paris.

The FASOPO association, of which they are both members, announced Marchal's detention on its website, saying it had remained quiet about his arrest at the request of French authorities until the story was reported on Tuesday by French newspaper Le Figaro.

It said that "discretion had seemed preferable to the French authorities, who immediately began working, at the highest level, to obtain the liberation of our colleagues..."

The French government, it said, had wished to prevent the issue becoming a reason for "nationalist flare-up" in Tehran.

The FASOPO had alerted France of the pair's disappearance on 25 June.

The association said it supported the French government's decision to keep quiet given the experience of foreign colleagues "who found themselves in the same situation" and who had found Western media reporting "either useless or, worse, counter-productive".

A foreign ministry spokesman said Paris had repeatedly requested that she be given consular access and be set free.Adelkhah's arrest was confirmed by Tehran on 16 July. The reason for her detention has not yet been made public.

Iranian authorities, who do not recognise dual nationality, had railed against the "unacceptable interference" of France in the matter.

FASOPO said that Marchal was arrested after arriving in Iran from Dubai to celebrate the Muslim feast of Eid with Adelkhah.

It said he was known "for his strong stances that reflect his uncompromising quest for intellectual honesty and humanistic values".

Iranian-born Adelkhah is a specialist on Shia Islam who has written extensively on Iran and Afghanistan.

Clampdown

In August, Iran said it convicted a woman, Aras Amiri, who had worked for the British Council, a cultural and educational organisation, while allegedly spying on cultural activities in Iran.

Amiri has been jailed for the past year while her case was under investigation. She was sentenced to 10 years.

Another British-Iranian woman held in Tehran, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while traveling with her young daughter.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, was arrested in April 2016. Her sentence and her treatment while in prison have been widely criticised.

Read also: Detained Zaghari-Ratcliffe to send daughter to Britain

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, cases involving which typically end up in closed-door hearings of Iran's Revolutionary Court, where former detainees say they had no opportunity to defend themselves against spying charges or offer evidence.

Analysts and family members of dual nationals and others detained in Iran long have said hard-liners in the Islamic Republic's security agencies use the prisoners as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West.

A UN panel in 2018 described "an emerging pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals" in Iran, which Tehran denied.

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