Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah released from Iran prison

Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah has been released from Iran’s notorious Evin prison, the French government said but the conditions of her release remain unclear.

Adelkhah has been in prison since Iranian authorities arrested her in 2019 during a visit to the country. She is one of seven French nationals detained in Iran, a factor that has worsened relations between Paris and Tehran in recent months.

A foreign ministry statement on Friday said France “welcomed” the release, adding she had been “unjustly detained” in Tehran’s Evin prison.

“It is essential that all of Ms Fariba Adelkhah’s freedoms are restored, including returning to France if she wishes,” the ministry said in the statement.

“France reiterates its demand that all French nationals arbitrarily detained in Iran are released immediately and without conditions,” the statement added.

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A source close to Adelkhah, who asked not to be named, told Agence France-Presse that she had been freed from Evin but added it was not immediately clear if she would be able to return to France.

Iranian authorities sentenced Adelkhah in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. They moved her to house arrest later but in January she was returned to jail.

A researcher affiliated with Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po university, Adelkhah has maintained her innocence, while France called her imprisonment “politically motivated” and repeatedly called for her release.

In recent years, members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on charges related to espionage and security.

Human rights groups have accused Tehran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests. Iran, which does not recognise dual nationality, denies taking prisoners to gain diplomatic leverage.

Adelkhah’s release came a day after Iran freed a total of seven women from Evin prison.

They included campaigner Saba Kordafshari, held since 2019 after she campaigned against the obligatory hijab for women, and prominent photographer Alieh Motalebzadeh, whose latest stint in jail began in April last year.

Motalebzadeh wrote on Twitter that Adelkhah was among half a dozen more prisoners released on Friday. A picture also circulated on social media of a smiling Adelkhah in a car apparently being driven away from prison.

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Iran has been rocked by protests since September, following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa after she was arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic republic’s strict dress rules. The ensuing crackdown had limited diplomatic contacts between Iran and the West and the scope for agreeing releases of prisoners.

On Friday, Iran also released Farhad Meysami, a doctor and human rights campaigner who had been refusing food for several weeks over the authorities’ response to the protests, his lawyer said. Images of his emaciated body while on hunger strike had caused international concern.

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