Iran holding academic ‘for political aims’ says France

Franco-Iranian academic Adelkhah Fariba had her five-year sentence upheld. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Iran holding academic ‘for political aims’ says France

  • Fariba Adelkhah was arrested in Tehran in June, 2019

PARIS: France on Tuesday accused Iran of holding French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah “only for political aims,” after the judiciary upheld a five-year jail sentence against her.
Adelkhah, a prominent anthropologist specializing in Shia Islam, was arrested in Tehran on June 5, 2019, and has been held behind bars ever since.
“We condemn this decision by the Iranian authorities who persist in holding Mrs.Fariba Adelkhah only for political aims, in the absence of any serious evidence or fact,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We remain determined to secure the release of our compatriot,” it added.
In May Adelkhah had been ordered to serve five years in prison after being convicted on national security charges.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili confirmed Tuesday that the sentence had been upheld.
She will “serve five years” including time served since her arrest, Esmaili told journalists.
The French foreign ministry said this could only have a negative impact on relations “and substantially reduces the confidence between our two countries.”
A France-based support committee for Adelkhah denounced the ruling as a “parody of justice.”
It called for her release, especially given the spread of COVID-19 in Iran, with Adelkhah still weak after a 49-day hunger strike she waged from December to February.
Relations between Tehran and Paris have deteriorated in the past year.
Both were parties to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
But last week, France was among the countries that passed a resolution at the UN’s nuclear watchdog calling on Iran to clarify whether it had undertaken undeclared nuclear activities in the early 2000s — a move condemned by the Islamic republic.
Also Tuesday, the Iranian judiciary said that Iranian opposition activist Ruhollah Zam had been sentenced to death following his arrest last year.
Zam, a refugee for several years in France, disappeared on a trip to Baghdad in October. Paris-based Press rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has accused Iran of abducting him in Iraq to face trial back home.

Doctors on emergency duty describe horror of Beirut explosions

Updated 1 min 47 sec ago

Doctors on emergency duty describe horror of Beirut explosions

  • The explosions left some hospitals cut off from the power grid and unable to get their generators working
  • Many residents of the city were injured inside their apartments by shattered glass and falling objects

DUBAI: Badly injured people began streaming into Beirut’s Clemenceau Medical Center within hours of the explosion that devastated large parts of the capital on Tuesday night.

Some were hurt inside their apartments by shattered glass and falling objects; others suffered severe injuries while going up in elevators or climbing stairs; still others were bloodied by falling masonry and debris while they were out in the streets.

By late on Wednesday, the number of people hurt in the explosions in Beirut port had reached 5,000, with the death toll rising above 135.

“Blood was everywhere,” Dr. Walid Alami, a cardiologist at Clemenceau Medical Center, told Arab News from Beirut, as he recounted the events of a night that began with the hospital asking all its off-duty nurses and doctors to report for duty immediately.

He said a large number of patients, many of them children, suffered eye injuries and loss of vision caused by broken pieces of glass.

“I am 58. I have lived through the civil war and treated patients during the 2006 invasion. I have never seen anything like this,” Alami said. “We have never had a bomb that caused destruction over a wider radius.”

He added: “We handled the crisis well given that we haven’t had to confront anything like this since the 2006 war (with Israel). We dealt with many casualties in a very short period of time.”

The explosions could not have come at a worse time for Lebanon’s health system, which has been ailing for months owing to the economic collapse, electricity shortages and a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Lebanon imposed a two-week lockdown on July 30 after the health minister warned that the pandemic was taking a “dangerous turn.” But on Tuesday, Beirut’s hospitals faced a totally unexpected health emergency.

Among those who suddenly found themselves on the front line was Dr. Ramzi Alami a surgeon at the American University of Beirut Medical Center.

“Like most hospitals in Beirut, we were completely inundated last night,” he told Arab News. “We had to turn so many people away, which was one of the biggest challenges for our staff. We kept the corridors open so that we could bring in the seriously injured.

“I don’t know how to describe what we were doing last night. We were treating patients in the hallways, on the floor — all over the place. There was a power cut early on, so we were treating patients in the dark. It’s indescribable what we experienced and what we saw.”

He said the most serious cases involved internal head injuries, including brain trauma.

“Due to the intensity of the explosion, people got thrown from different positions or tossed into the air or hurled against walls. There were lots of lacerations, cuts and bleeding from shattered glass.”

In total the medical center had 55 major cases admitted overnight. People with less serious injuries were sent to smaller hospitals in the vicinity or elsewhere.

The explosions left some hospitals in Beirut cut off from the power grid and unable to get damaged generators up and running.

Dr. Samir Challita, based in Byblos, said patients began arriving from Beirut, 30 km away, when its hospitals began to run out of capacity.

Lebanon has not been abandoned in its hour of need. Planes carrying aid from GCC countries have begun arriving at Rafic Hariri Airport. The EU has said it will send about 100 firefighters and other search-and-rescue support.

President Donald Trump said the US was “ready to assist Lebanon,” while Israel, with which Lebanon is technically still at war, said it would support its neighbor with “humanitarian and medical aid.”

However, many Lebanese say that the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for the disaster should face a reckoning.

“The scale of the destruction is unprecedented, even by Beirut’s sad history of explosions,” Nasser Saidi, a former economy and trade minister and founder of Nasser Saidi & Associates, told Arab News from Beirut.

“On a global scale, this was the most powerful explosion after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and more devastating than Halifax (1917) and Texas City (1947) where 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded,” he said.

“The resulting loss of life and injuries to residents has generated deep anger. The ammonium nitrate had been in storage at Beirut port since 2014, posing a clear danger. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

“This is a case of criminal neglect by the authorities and management in charge of the port, customs, the security and judicial authorities and governments. Warnings were given, but they went unheeded. There must be justice and accountability.”

Saidi warned the explosions will deepen the economic, banking and financial meltdown, currency depreciation and soaring inflation. The destruction of the port will hit Lebanon’s imports of food, medicines and essential goods.

“International aid is required not only to address humanitarian needs but to push for political reform,” he said. “The Diab government cannot continue blaming the accumulations of past bad governance.”

Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor