France demands Iran release two French nationals held since June

Our Foreign Staff
An Iranian inmate peers from behind a wall as a guard walks by at the female section of the infamous Evin jail (file photo) - AFP

France demanded on Wednesday that Iran immediately release two of its nationals who have been held in prison since June, a situation that is likely to complicate Paris's efforts to defuse tensions between the United States and Tehran.

France's foreign ministry confirmed that Roland Marchal, a senior researcher from Science-Po university, was being detained. French officials and his family had sought to keep the information secret due to the current disputes in the region, fearing it could harm potential negotiations.

Mr Marchal's colleague, Franco-Iranian dual national Fariba Adelkhah, has been in prison in Iran since June.

“We want the Iranian authorities to show transparency in this dossier and act without delay to end the unacceptable situation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a briefing.

She added that Mr Marchal had received consular visits and had a lawyer. Iran has refused to offer the same for Mr Adelkhah, citing her Iranian nationality, and has called France's demands for her release an interference in its internal affairs.

Mr Marchal, an Africa expert, had sought to spend the Eid religious holiday with his colleague in Iran, but was arrested at Tehran airport upon his arrival, their university association said in a statement.

Iranian authorities said on Monday that a third person linked to France had been arrested, exiled Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam.

The announcement by the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard did not make clear how Mr Zam, based in France, was arrested, saying only that he was first “guided into” Iran.

The French Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Mr Zam was a refugee with French residence papers, had left France on Oct. 11 and was arrested abroad.

But authorities had no information on the circumstances of the arrest.

Mr Zam helped fan the flames of nationwide protests about the economy in Iran at the end of 2017 and ran a website called AmadNews that posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials.