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.


US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 as they gather to celebrate after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 11 min 42 sec ago

US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site

WASHINGTON: The US said it was “disappointed” by Turkey’s decision to turn the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and urged equal access for all visitors.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all,” she said on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation of a decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.

Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokeswoman

Erdogan went ahead despite an open appeal to the NATO ally by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who frequently speaks about religious freedom.
In a statement last week, Pompeo called the museum status an “exemplar” of Turkey’s “commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history” of the country and said a change risked “diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also said on Friday he deeply regretted Turkey’s decision.
Biden called on Erdogan to reverse it “and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all.”