PARIS - A prominent French academic has been in detention in Iran since June, when he was arrested with his Franco-Iranian colleague, a researchers’ group and the French foreign ministry said Wednesday.
Roland Marchal, a sociologist whose research focuses on civil wars in Africa, and Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist, both work at the Sciences Po university in Paris.
The FASOPO association, of which they are both members, announced Marchal’s detention on its website, saying it had remained quiet about his arrest at the request of French authorities until the story was reported on Tuesday by Le Figaro newspaper.
The association said “discretion had seemed preferable to the French authorities, who immediately began working, at the highest level, to obtain the liberation of our colleagues...”
The French government, it said, had wished to prevent the issue becoming a reason for “nationalist flare-up” in Tehran.
The foreign ministry in a statement confirmed Marchal’s detention and said it strongly condemned his arrest.
“We are mobilized to obtain his release,” it said, adding Marchal had received several consular visits.
“We urge the Iranian authorities to be transparent and act without delay to put an end to this unacceptable situation,” the ministry added.
FASOPO said it had alerted French authorities to the pair’s disappearance on June 25.
The association said it supported the government’s decision to keep quiet given the experience of foreign colleagues “who found themselves in the same situation” and who had found Western media reporting “either useless or, worse, counter-productive.”
Adelkhah’s arrest was confirmed by Tehran on July 16. The reason for her detention has not been made public.
Paris has repeatedly requested that she be given consular access and set free. Iranian authorities, who do not recognize dual nationality, had railed against the “unacceptable interference” of France in the matter.
FASOPO said Marchal was arrested after arriving in Iran from Dubai to celebrate the Muslim Eid feast with Adelkhah.
It said he was known “for his strong stances that reflect his uncompromising quest for intellectual honesty and humanistic values.”
Iranian-born Adelkhah is a specialist on Shia Islam who has written extensively on Iran and Afghanistan.
The arrests came as President Emmanuel Macron conducts intense diplomacy to find a way of keeping alive the 2015 nuclear deal which limits Iran’s atomic program.
Iran has several dual nationals and Western passport holders in detention.
They include British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, who has been jailed in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges, causing major tensions with Britain.