France calls for ‘gesture’ from Iran over detained academics

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. (AFP)
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Updated 11 January 2020

France calls for ‘gesture’ from Iran over detained academics

  • The plea is for the release of Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal — imprisoned since June last year
  • France has repeatedly called for de-escalation in the latest intensification of the Iran-US standoff

PARIS: France said on Friday that the imprisonment of two prominent French academics by Iran was unacceptable and that their release would represent a “significant gesture,” as tensions mount between Tehran and the West.

The plea 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.

“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,” he said.

France has repeatedly called for de-escalation in the latest intensification 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.

France, Britain and Germany are scrambling to keep alive a 2015 deal that reined in Tehran’s nuclear program, which US President Donald Trump walked out of in 2018.

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.

The two researchers are not the only foreign academics behind bars in Iran — Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert of the University of Melbourne is serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges.

Sciences Po said late last year that Adelkhah and Moore-Gilbert had begun a hunger strike. Moore-Gilbert has issued a plea to Prime Minister Scott Morrison to work for her release.

Tehran is still holding several other foreigners in high-profile cases, including British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and his father, Mohammad Bagher Namazi.


Fire breaks out at Iranian industrial area

Updated 54 min 18 sec ago

Fire breaks out at Iranian industrial area

  • A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation
  • There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks

DUBAI: A fire broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.
“The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning ... there were no casualties ... firefighters are trying to contain the fire,” it said.
A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation.
There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks, including a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear facility last month which caused significant damage, but Iranian officials said operations were not affected.
In an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran in July, 19 people were killed. Officials said it was caused by a gas leak.
On June 26, an explosion occurred east of Tehran near the Parchin military and weapons development base that the authorities said was caused by a leak in a gas storage facility in an area outside the base.