UPDATE, JAN 17:
Iran’s officials have confirmed the return of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah (pictured) to detention.
The deputy head of the judiciary, Kazem Gharibabadi, claimed the anthropologist had violated judicial restrictions “dozens of times” while on furlough with an electronic tag “despite repeated warnings from judicial authorities”.
He produced no evidence for the assertion.
ORIGINAL ENTRY, JAN 13: Political prisoner Aras Amiri (pictured), who works for the British Council, has been freed from detention in Iran and returned to the UK after the Iranian Supreme Court quashed her conviction on espionage charges.
However, French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah has been forced to return to Tehran’s Evin Prison.
Amiri, who is an artistic affairs officer, was seized in 2018 as she visited relatives in Tehran. She was handed a 10-year sentence in May 2019 and lost an initial appeal three months later.
The UK permanent resident said she was targeted after she refused to become an informant for Iranian intelligence services. She wrote judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi, who is now President, in 2019: “Following my release on bail … the case investigators kept contacting me. During our third meeting, I turned down their explicit invitation for cooperation and told them I could only work in my specific field, not any other kind of work.”
The British Council said in a statement:
We have always refuted the original charges made against Aras. We are very proud of her work in our London office as an arts programme officer supporting a greater understanding and appreciation of Iranian culture in the UK. This was important work, which reflects the value of cross-border cultural collaboration.
Aras’s wellbeing remains our priority. We ask that her privacy is respected as she rebuilds her life in the UK following a long and difficult period.
Adelkhah “Cynically Used” by Iran’s Officials
But Iranian authorities sent a different signal over political prisoners with the return of anthropologist Adelkhah to prison.
The academic, who works at Paris’s Sciences Po University, was sentenced in May 2020 to a total of 6 1/2 years in prison for conspiring against national security, with the sentence upheld on appeal in May 2020. She was granted furlough in October 2020, amid COVID-19 raging through detention centers, with an electronic bracelet.
Adelkhah’s partner and colleague Roland Marchal was released in March 2020 in a prisoner exchange.
The French Foreign Ministry expressed “astonishment” at the development on Wednesday, saying Adelkhah’s renewed imprisonment came without “no explanation or preliminary warning”. It called for her immediate release.
“The decision to re-incarcerate her, which we condemn, can only have negative consequences on the relationship between France and Iran and reduce the trust between our two countries”, the Foreign Ministry said.
Amid the Vienna talks on the Iranian nuclear program, Tehran has periodically assailed France and other European powers. On Friday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, “The discussions are ongoing. They are slow, too slow and that creates a gap that jeopardizes the chance of finding a solution that respects the interests of all sides.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have seized a series of foreign and dual nationals. Some have been released in prisoner exchanges, but others such as Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, have been behind bars or held under house arrest for years.
The committee set up to support Adelkhah noted, “The Iranian government is cynically using our colleague for external or internal purposes that remain opaque, and that have nothing to do with her activities.”
It accused Iranian authorities of “deliberately endangering Fariba Adelkhah’s health and even her life”, amid the death this month of another political prisoner, poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin, from Coronavirus.