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Macron demands answers from Iran over academic's detention

Macron demands answers from Iran over academics detention

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called on Tehran to explain why a Franco-Iranian academic based at a Paris university has been arrested in Iran, expressing concern for the woman's welfare.

The detention of Fariba Adelkhah, a well-known expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at the prestigious Sciences Po university, risks increasing tension between Paris and Tehran at a critical moment in crisis talks to save the beleagured Iranian nuclear programme.

Adelkhah has been denied contact with consular staff, the French foreign ministry said Monday, confirming her dual nationality.

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

"What has happened worries me a great deal," Macron told reporters at a news conference in Belgrade, where he is visiting. "We have been aware of this for some days. I have expressed my disagreement and asked President (Hassan) Rouhani for clarification."  But he added that France had so far received no meaningful explanation. Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said he could not confirm the charges.

The landmark deal is at risk of collapsing after US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out unilaterally, leading Iran to violate safeguards that limited its stockpiling and enrichment of uranium.

Other Iranian dual nationals jailed in Iran include Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who are serving 10-year sentences for espionage in a case that has outraged Washington.

Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University researcher, is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage and US national Michael White, 46, was this year also sentenced to 10 years.

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

At around the same time as her release, French judicial authorities freed Ali Vakili Rad, who had been convicted of the 1991 murder outside Paris of the ousted shah's former prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar. The timing led to speculation about a bilateral deal over the prisoners, though French authorities denied any exchange.

For several months in 2007, Iran detained US-Iranian academic Haleh Esfandiari, one of the most prominent US-based academics working on Iran, who at the time was director of the Middle East programme at the Wilson Center.

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