Iran sentences French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah to 6 years in prison

May 16 (UPI) — Iran sentenced a French-Iranian academic to six years in prison Saturday on national security and propaganda charges.

Fariba Adelkhah, 61, an anthropologist and researcher at Sciences Po university in Paris who specializes in Shiite Islam, has been detained since June at Evin jail, north of Tehran.

Initially, authorities charged her with spying, but those changes were dropped in January while she remained in custody on other charges.

Adelkhah was sentenced Saturday to five years in prison for “colluding with the aim of breaching national security,” along with one more year in prison for “propaganda against the system.”

Her colleague, Roland Marchal, was arrested with her in June, but was released in March as part of a prisoner swap in which French authorities freed Jalal Rohollahnejad, an Iranian engineer held on allegations he broke U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Dozens of foreign and dual nationals have been arrested in recent years on national security charges in Iran.

Among the other dual nationals arrested is British-Iranian charity worker Nazan Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is on temporary release due to the coroanvirus pandemic.

French authorities have called for Adelkhah’s release.

“This sentencing is not based on any serious element or established fact, and therefore has a political nature,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said. “We are urging Iranian authorities to immediately release Ms. Adelkhah.”

Adelkhah was born in Iran and arrived in France at age 18 to study before earning her anthropology doctorate. Along with Shiite Islam, she specializes in political anthropology of post-revolutionary Iran and has contributed to scientific reviews and written books, such as The Revolution under the Veil: Islamic Women of Iran.

French diplomats have not been granted consular access rights since Iranian authorities do not recognize dual nationality for Iranian citizens.

The academic has maintained her innocence and went on a 49-day hunger strike from Dec. 24 to Feb. 24 to protest her detention. The protest ended amid fears about her health and she was admitted to the prison’s hospital for severe kidney damage.

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