June 5, 2020 / 5:37 AM / a month ago

Macron demands release of French-Iranian academic Adelkhah

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron meets with trade unions and employers' representatives amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 4, 2020. Yoan Valat/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France demanded on Friday that Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, whom Tehran has sentenced to six years in prison, be released immediately, saying her detention was harming trust between the two countries.

“One year ago, Fariba Adelkhah was arbitrarily arrested in Iran. It is unacceptable that she is still in prison,” tweeted President Emanuel Macron. “My message to Iranian authorities: justice demands that our compatriot be immediately released.”

Iran does not recognise dual nationality and has rejected previous calls to release the 60-year-old anthropologist, detained since June 2019, saying the case is an Iranian domestic legal matter.

“Political pressure and propaganda campaigns cannot disrupt the execution of (Adelkhah’s) legal sentence,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told state media. “We hope that French authorities ... put an end to interference in the internal affairs of our country.”

In March, the two countries carried out a prisoner swap, exchanging academic Roland Marchal for engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad. However, since then there has been little sign that Adelkhah will be released and she was sentenced in May to six years in prison on security-related charges.

“This ongoing situation can only have a negative impact on the bilateral relations between France and Iran, and can only significantly reduce the trust between our two countries,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement on Friday.

Relations between France and Iran have improved over the last year, but remain tense over Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile programme and regional influence.

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Dominique Vidalon; Additional reporting by Dubai newsroom; Editing by John Irish, Andrew Cawthorne and Giles Elgood

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