Iran drops spy charge for detained French academic: lawyer

TEHRAN (AFP): Iran has dropped espionage charges that had been laid against an Iranian-French academic detained in the Islamic republic since last year, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

“The espionage charge has been dropped for Sciences Po University academic Fariba Adelkhah,” Said Dehghan told AFP.

The lawyer welcomed the decision to lift the charge, which carries the death penalty.

Adelkhah still faces two other charges: spreading “propaganda against the political system” of the Islamic republic; and “conspiracy against national security”.

Dehghan said the prosecution had dropped its case against her for “disturbing the public order”.

Adelkhah, an expert on Iran and Islam, was arrested in Tehran in June last year.

Her Sciences Po colleague, Roland Marchal, was arrested in the same month while visiting Adelkhah.

Iran does not recognise dual nationality and has repeatedly rebuffed calls from foreign governments for consular access to those it has detained during legal proceedings.

It accused France of “interference” in December after the French foreign ministry summoned Iran’s ambassador to Paris to protest the imprisonment of Adelkhah and Marchal.

Their detention added to the distrust between Tehran and Paris at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron had been seeking to play a leading role in defusing tensions between Iran and the United States.

The French pair are not the only foreign academics behind bars in Iran.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert of the University of Melbourne is also imprisoned in the country.

Canberra expressed “deep concern” over the Australian academic’s case when she reportedly began a hunger strike on Christmas Eve after losing an appeal against a 10-year jail sentence.

Sciences Po said at the time that Adelkhah had also begun a hunger strike.