France warns Iran’s reimprisonment of academic Adelkhah will damage relations

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PARIS: Franco-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, whom Tehran has sentenced to five years in prison but was recently living under house arrest, has once again been incarcerated, France’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, demanding her immediate release.
The new move against the Adelkhah, a researcher affiliated to Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po university whose detention had triggered a rift between the two countries in the past, comes as France and other western powers are negotiating with Iran to revive a nuclear accord.
“The decision to re-incarcerate her, which we condemn, can only have negative consequences on the relationship between France and Iran and reduce the trust between our two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.
“France demands the immediate release of Ms. Adelkhah,” it added.
Adelkhah was arrested in 2019 and was sentenced in May 2020 to five years in prison for conspiring against national security, accusations her supporters have always denounced as absurd. She was allowed home in Tehran in October 2020 with an electronic bracelet.
She is one of at least a dozen Western nationals believed to be held in Iran who activists say are being held as hostages at the behest of the elite Revolutionary Guards to extract concessions from the West.
French President Emmanuel Macron critised Tehran at the time of Adelkhah’s first incarceration, saying that she had been arrested arbitrarily, a claim dismissed as “propaganda” by Iranian officials.
The foreign ministry on Wednesday reiterated France’s position that Iran’s treatment of the academic was politically motivated.
A group of her supporters said on Wednesday in a tweet that Adelkhan is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison. 
The committee accused the authorities of “deliberately endangering Fariba Adelkhah’s health and even her life,” pointing to the death this month in Iranian custody of poet Baktash Abtin after he contracted Covid.
The surprise move by the Iranian authorities to move Adelkhah back to prison comes at a hugely sensitive juncture in talks involving France and other world powers aimed at reviving the 2015 deal on the Iranian nuclear program.
France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian complained Tuesday that the pace of the talks in Vienna is “too slow,” in marked contrast to the more upbeat tone from officials in Tehran.
Also being held in Iran is Frenchman Benjamin Briere, who his family describe as an innocent tourist but was detained while traveling in May.
Briere’s family announced last month he had begun a hunger strike to protest at his detention conditions and the lack of evolution in his case.
(With Reuters and AFP)

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