Iran Arrests Paris-Based Academic, France Demands Answers

Fariba Adelkhah denied contact with French consular staff

Fariba Adelkhah / Twitter

Iran confirmed Tuesday that it arrested Fariba Adelkhah, a prominent French-Iranian academic, but refused to provide details on her situation.

"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," said Gholamhossein Esmaili, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary. "More transparent information will be provided as the case progresses."

Esmaili's comments came one day after the French Foreign Ministry publicized the arrest, which occurred last month, and said that Iranian authorities have denied Adelkhah, a researcher at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, contact with French consular staff.

"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 authorization for consular access," the ministry said in a statement.

"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," added Agnes von der Muhll, a spokeswoman for the ministry. "No satisfactory response has been given to these requests."

French president Emmanuel Macron told a news conference in Belgrade that he was worried about the arrest of the 60-year-old anthropologist and is waiting for "clarifications" from Hassan Rouhani, his Iranian counterpart, about the situation.

"No explanations at this stage have been given to me to explain in a valid way this arrest," said Macron, who is scheduled to speak with Rouhani this week.

Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps arrested Adelkhah, a prolific author and one of France's leading experts on Iran, in late June "on probable charges of espionage," according to IranWire, a news site run by Iranian expats. The report added that Adelkhah has been interrogated for three weeks and had been living in Iran for the last few months to conduct research.

In recent years, Iranian authorities have arrested several dual nationals, including Americans, on charges of espionage. In 2017, for example, Iran sentenced American academic Xiyue Wang to 10 years in prison for spying.

Experts say the arrests are based on false charges and used to increase Iran's leverage in negotiations with other countries. Tehran dismisses such claims.

Adelkhah's arrest comes at a time when Macron and other European leaders are trying to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran, which violated some of the accord's terms earlier this month. President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement last year.

Anger in Paris over the arrest could undermine French efforts to save the deal, which placed temporary limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions.