France confirms second academic detained in Iran since June

FRANCE 24 screen grab | Roland Marchal, an expert on conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa, speaks to FRANCE 24 on March 24, 2013.

A second French academic has been held in Iran since June, when he was arrested with his Franco-Iranian colleague, the French foreign ministry confirmed on Wednesday, describing his continued detention as "unacceptable".


Sociologist Roland Marchal, whose research focuses on civil wars in Africa, and Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist, both work at the Sciences Po university in Paris.

The FASOPO association, of which they are both members, announced Marchal's detention on its website on Wednesday, saying it had remained quiet about his arrest at the request of French authorities until the story was reported on Tuesday by Le Figaro newspaper.

The association said "discretion had seemed preferable to the French authorities, who immediately began working, at the highest level, to obtain the liberation of our colleagues."

The French government, it said, had wished to prevent the issue becoming a reason for "nationalist flare-up" in Iran.

The foreign ministry in a statement confirmed Marchal's detention and said it strongly condemned his arrest.

"We are mobilised to obtain his release," it said, adding Marchal had received several consular visits.

"We urge the Iranian authorities to be transparent and act without delay to put an end to this unacceptable situation," the ministry added.

Media attention ‘counter-productive’

FASOPO said it had alerted French authorities to the pair's disappearance on June 25.

The association said it supported the government's decision to keep quiet given the experience of foreign colleagues "who found themselves in the same situation" and who had found Western media reporting "either useless or, worse, counter-productive".

Adelkhah's arrest was confirmed by Tehran on July 16. The reason for her detention has not been made public.

Paris has repeatedly requested that she be given consular access and set free. Iranian authorities, who do not recognise dual nationality, had railed against the "unacceptable interference" of France in the matter.

FASOPO said Marchal was arrested after arriving in Iran from Dubai to celebrate the Muslim Eid feast with Adelkhah.

It said he was known "for his strong stances that reflect his uncompromising quest for intellectual honesty and humanistic values."

Iranian-born Adelkhah is a specialist on Shia Islam who has written extensively on Iran and Afghanistan.

Paris condemns Iranian dissident’s arrest

The arrests came as President Emmanuel Macron conducts intense diplomacy to find a way of keeping alive the 2015 nuclear deal which limits Iran's atomic programme.

Iran has several dual nationals and Western passport holders in detention. Rights groups accuse Tehran of using them to extract concessions from Western countries.

They include British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who has been jailed in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges, causing major tensions with Britain.

In another incident that is likely to stoke tensions between Paris and Tehran, Iran said on Monday it had captured and repatriated Ruhollah Zam, a Paris-based journalist suspected of using social media to fuel anti-government street unrest across Iran early last year.

France’s foreign ministry condemned the arrest on Wednesday, saying Zam had left the country just days before his detention by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The ministry said in a statement it had no precise information concerning the arrest, which the Guards described as a "sophisticated" operation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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