French pair held in Iran to face Revolutionary Court
Two French academics detained in Iran for six months have lost a bid to be released on bail and their case will now go before the Revolutionary Court, Iranian media reported. Roland Marchal, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris, was arrested in June together with Fariba Adelkhah, an academic at the same university. They are accused of espionage.
French President Emmanuel Macron had called on Tuesday for Iran to release the pair without delay, saying "their imprisonment is intolerable". His appeal came on international human rights day and followed a prisoner swap at the weekend between Iran and its arch-enemy the United States.
Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA said on Tuesday that a judge had decided to release the French academics on bail, as they had been entitled to it after six months in detention. But this was opposed by the prosecution and as a result the case was referred to Iran's Revolutionary Court to settle the dispute, ISNA said, citing their lawyer Saeed Dehghan.
The Revolutionary Court typically handles high-profile cases in Iran, including those involving espionage.
Iran's female political prisoners
Iran is holding numerous women in jail on political charges. They include human rights activists, journalists, artists and simply engaged citizens. By Shabnam von Hein
Bahareh Hedayat: A women's rights activist and prominent figure in the student movement in Iran. In 2010, shortly before her wedding, she was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 10 years in prison. She was head of an organisation fighting for political reforms and against human rights violations
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: An employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, she has been in jail since April, 2016. She has both British and Iranian citizenship, and wanted to visit family in Iran with her two-year-old daughter. She is accused of participating in efforts "to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic." Her foundation, which educates journalists worldwide, has called the allegations groundless
Zahra Rahnavard: Wife of opposition politician Mir Hossein Mousavi, she is perhaps the most well-known of Iran's female political prisoners. After the disputed presidential elections in 2009, she backed her husband. The sculptor and academic has been under house arrest with her husband since February 2011 without charges
Narges Mohammadi: A human rights activist, she was sentenced to 16 years in prison in May 2016, although her work is seen as peaceful. At the end of June, she began a hunger strike after authorities restricted telephone contact with her young son and daughter. After 20 days on hunger strike, she was granted permission to speak once a week with her children
Homa Hoodfar: The Canadan-Irish-Iranian anthropologist has been jailed at Tehran's Evin Prison since 6 June 2016. The renowned academic was arrested during a private visit to Iran. She had planned to research women in Iranian politics. She was accused of creating security problems in the Islamic Republic by taking part in feminist activities
Reyhaneh Tabatabaei: The political journalist has been arrested many times, most recently in January 2016. Reyhaneh Tabatabaei was accused of "propaganda against the state." She supported reform activists. Tabatabaei was sentenced to a year in prison and was handed a two-year employment ban. The Revolutionary Court also prohibited her from participating in any political activities for two years
Fariba Kamalabadi: After eight years behind bars, Fariba Kamalabadi (third from right) was granted temporary release in May. Until 2008, she was one of Iran's leading Baha'i figures. She was sentenced to 20 years for her religious beliefs. While on release she visited Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former president Ali Akbar Rafsanjani. Several grand ayatollahs denounced the visit as a "betrayal of Islam"
"The bail for my clients had been issued and the judge had agreed to their release on bail," Dehghan was quoted as saying. "Though delayed, this decision was legal, but the deputy prosecutor opposed the opinion of the judge," said the lawyer.
As a result, "the matter must be sent to a competent court to settle disputes... which in this case is the Revolutionary Court."
Marchal had come to Iran to visit Adelkhah and was accused of "collusion against national security", Dehghan said last month, according to ISNA. But the lawyer said the reasons for the charges were still unknown to him.
The arrest of Adelkhah, a Franco-Iranian specialist in Shia Islam, was confirmed on July 16 by Iran's judicial spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili, who gave no further details. Her friends and colleagues in France have said she was accused of espionage.
Tehran, which does not recognise dual nationality, has criticised Paris for "unacceptable interference" in its domestic affairs after the French government sought consular access to Adelkhah.
Iran said on Monday it was open to more prisoner swaps with the United States after one such exchange at the weekend.
Xiyue Wang, an American scholar who had been serving 10 years on espionage charges, was released by Iran on Saturday in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian who had been held in the U.S. for allegedly breaching sanctions.
Adelkhah and Marchal are not the only foreign academics facing charges in Iran.
British-Iranian anthropologist Kameel Ahmady, who was released on bail last month after three months in detention, is suspected of links to foreign intelligence services.
Iran confirmed in September that Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert had been arrested for "spying for another country". Her family said at the time that she had been detained for months. (AFP)