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Paris demands answers after Franco-Iranian academic arrested in Iran

Screengrab FRANCE 24 - France Info of Fariba Adelkhah

Fariba Adelkhah, an academic with dual French and Iranian nationality from Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po university, has been arrested in Iran and denied contact with French consular staff, France's foreign ministry said Monday.

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"France calls on the Iranian authorities to shed full light on Mrs [Fariba] Adelkhah's situation and repeats its demands, particularly with regard to an immediate authorisation for consular access," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Adelkhah, an academic at Sciences Po university in Paris, has been denied contact with French consular officials in Iran.

"French authorities in this difficult context have taken steps with Iranian authorities to get information from them on her situation and the conditions of her arrest and asked for consular access," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll in the statement.

"No satisfactory response has been given to these requests. France calls on the Iranian authorities to bring to light Mrs Adelkhah's situation and reiterates its requests, in particular the authorisation of consular access without delay," she added.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to Belgrade, said he was awaiting "clarification" from the Iranian authorities.

Arrest at a sensitive time

In response to Macron’s entreaties, Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had arrested Adelkhah.

“This person was detained recently ... but due to the nature of the case, this is not the proper time to give any information about it,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said in a live broadcast.

When asked earlier on Monday about the arrest, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei was quoted as saying that he had heard reports of the arrest but had no further information, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

An anthropologist and director of research at the Center for International Studies (CERI) at Sciences Po, Adelkhah is the author of numerous publications on Iran and Afghanistan.

Her arrest comes at a sensitive time when France is trying to de-escalate tensions between longtime foes Iran and the United States that have escalated since Washington unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Dual nationals in detention

Adelkhah is the latest Iranian national also holding a Western passport to be arrested in Iran.

British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been jailed in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges. Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family have denied the charges.

Dual Iranian-American nationals Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer are serving 10-year sentences for espionage in a case that has outraged Washington.

Meanwhile, Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University scholar researching Persia's Qajar dynasty, is serving a 10-year sentence in Iran for espionage and US national Michael White, 46, was also sentenced to 10 years earlier this year.

French academic Clotilde Reiss was detained in Iran for 10 months from 2009-2010 before being released in a case that attracted widespread attention.

At the time of her release, French judicial authorities freed Ali Vakili Rad, who had been convicted of the 1991 murder of the ousted shah's former prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar, near Paris.

The timing led to speculation of a prisoner-exchange deal struck between the two countries, though French authorities denied the allegations.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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