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French academics to face trial in Iran on March 3 — lawyer

By AFP - Feb 18,2020 - Last updated at Feb 18,2020

In this handout photo taken on September 19, 2012 and released on July 16, 2019 by Sciences Po university shows Franco-Iranian academic Adelkhah Fariba in an unlocated location (AFP photo)

TEHRAN — 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”.

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 defence.”

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 on 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 on Tuesday for “consular access, which must be regular and in accordance with Iran’s international commitments, and... the release of our compatriots”.

Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, has repeatedly criticised France for what it calls its “interference” in 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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