French pair held in Iran to face Revolutionary Court

TEHRAN (AFP) – 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 the United States (US).

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.

“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, 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 US 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 last Saturday in exchange for Massoud Soleimani, an Iranian who had been held in the US for allegedly breaching sanctions.