France’s Macron calls on Iran to release jailed researcher

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France, Europe, President Emmanuel Macron
French President- Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the “immediate release” of a French-Iranian researcher imprisoned in Iran, officials said.

He made the plea in a “long” phone call with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday, according to a statement from the French presidency.

Fariba Adelkhah, a 62-year-old anthropologist, has been detained in Iran since June 2019. She had been under house arrest since October 2020, but was sent back to prison earlier this month.

She was given a five-year sentence for “gathering and collusion” against Iran’s security. French authorities said her conviction is “purely political and arbitrary”.

Mr Macron also expressed his “concerns” over the situation of another French national detained in Iran, who is on a hunger strike in protest at his treatment, according to the French presidency’s statement.

Benjamin Briere has been sentenced to eight years in prison on what his lawyer said are trumped-up espionage and propaganda charges.

The 36-year-old was arrested in May 2020 after taking pictures in a desert area where photography is prohibited and asking questions on social media about Iran’s obligatory Islamic headscarf for women.

France and other world powers are in negotiations with Iran in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear deal.

Mr Macron “insisted on the need to speed up (negotiations) to quickly get tangible progress”, the statement said.

Rights groups accuse hardliners in Iran’s security agencies of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies it, but there have been prisoner exchanges in the past.

In March 2020, Iran and France swapped French researcher Roland Marchal for Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad.

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