France calls for Iran to release detained academics


The continued imprisonment by Iran of two prominent French academics is unacceptable and their immediate release would be a “significant gesture”, the French foreign minister said on Friday, January 10, as tension between Iran and the West continues to simmer.

“These arrests and the fact that they are in prison today is totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio. “It would be a significant gesture if Iran freed them as soon as possible.”

The call for the release of Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal – imprisoned since June last year – comes as Iran is embroiled in an international crisis over its missile attacks on US troops in Iraq and a passenger plane crash near Tehran.

Iran has dropped espionage charges against Adelkhah but she still faces charges of spreading “propaganda against the political system” and “conspiracy against national security”, her lawyer said this week.

Iran does not recognize Adelkhah’s dual French-Iranian nationality and has lashed out at Paris for what it has described as “interference” in the cases of the academics, both from Sciences Po university in Paris.

Marchal is also accused of “collusion against national security”, according to his lawyer.

France has repeatedly called for de-escalation in the latest tussle of the Iran-US standoff, sparked by the killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in an American drone strike which prompted Iran to attack bases in Iraq housing US troops.

A Ukrainian passenger plane came down shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, with Western officials suggesting it had been downed – possibly accidentally – by an Iranian missile.

France, Britain and Germany are scrambling to keep alive a 2015 deal that reined in Tehran’s nuclear programme, which US President Donald Trump walked out of in 2018. (Source: The Straits Times)