French academics held by Iran to face trial on March 3, lawyer says

Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal of the Sciences Po University in Paris detained since June 2019 on espionage charges

Fariba Adelkhah. (France 24 screenshot)
Fariba Adelkhah. (France 24 screenshot)

TEHRAN, Iran — Two French academics held in Iran where they are accused of plotting against national security will go on trial on March 3, their lawyer said on Tuesday.

Fariba Adelkhah and Roland Marchal, both researchers at Sciences Po University in Paris, were detained in the Islamic Republic in June 2019 and are being held in Evin prison in Tehran.

“We saw the indictment yesterday. The date for the trial was set yesterday for March 3,” lawyer Said Dehghan told AFP.

Adelkhah faces charges of “propaganda against the system” and “colluding to commit acts against national security,” he said.

Marchal was accused of “colluding to commit acts against national security.”

Roland Marchal (Screen capture: YouTube)

Speaking a short time earlier in a televised news conference, Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said the academics had already been convicted.

“They were tried in the presence of their lawyer, and convicted and are currently undergoing their sentence,” said Esmaili, without elaborating further.

But their lawyer said this was not the case.

“I deny this,” Dehghan told AFP. “We are preparing our defense.”

Adelkhah, a specialist in Shiite Islam, last week ended a six-week hunger strike that she had reportedly begun to demand the release of Marchal amid concerns about his health.

Marchal, an expert on East Africa, was reportedly arrested when visiting Adelkhah.

The detention of the pair has raised tensions between Iran and France.

France said Tuesday that Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had called for their “release without delay” during talks with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday in Munich.

A spokesman for the French foreign ministry called Tuesday for “consular access, which must be regular and in accordance with Iran’s international commitments, and… the release of our compatriots.”

Protesters hold banners on the Trocadero esplanade near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on February 11, 2020, during a gathering in support French-Iranian academic Fariba Abdelkhah and French academic Roland Marchal, detained in Iran since June 5, 2019. (Thomas Samson/AFP)

Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality, has repeatedly criticized France for what it calls its “interference” in French-Iranian Adelkhah’s case.

The two researchers are not the only foreign academics behind bars in Iran.

Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert of the University of Melbourne is serving a 10-year sentence after being found guilty of espionage.

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