Sat, 04 Apr 2020

Iran says a German held in Iran has been released after a detained Iranian accused of violating U.S. sanctions had returned home from Germany.

A German national, who was arrested in Iran for photographing and filming in a number of banned and unauthorized areas and sentenced to three years in prison, has been released, judiciary spokesman said in a weekly news conference on February 18.

The spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, did not give further details.

On February 17, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that Ahmad Khalili returned home the previous day with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who had been in Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference.

Khalili was arrested in Germany on a U.S. request and subject to extradition to the United States.

'We insisted that first the Iranian citizen should return home...then the German citizen was allowed to leave Iran on Monday,' Esmaili said.

The German government did not immediately comment on the apparent prisoner swap.

Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of foreigners and dual citizens over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.

Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries - a charge dismissed by Tehran.

In December, a U.S. citizen and Princeton University graduate student detained in Iran in 2016 and later charged with spying was freed and an imprisoned Iranian stem cell expert was released by Washington in return.

French Academics To Face Trial In March

In other news, Iran says two French academics who have been detained for eight months on charges of plotting acts against national security will go on trial next month.

Esmaili told the news conference on February 18 that French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah and her French colleague Roland Marchal will appear in court on March 3.

Adelkhah and Marchal, both researchers at Sciences Po University in Paris, were detained in Tehran in June 2019 and are being held in Tehran's Evin prison.

Their lawyer, Said Dehghan, said Adelkhah faces charges of 'propaganda against the system' and 'colluding to commit acts against national security.'

Marchal was accused of 'colluding to commit acts against national security.'

Last week, Dehghan said Adelkhah, an expert on Iran and Shi'ite Islam, had ended a six-week hunger strike. Marchal, an expert on East Africa, was reportedly arrested when visiting her.

Iran, which does not recognize dual citizenship, has repeatedly rejected calls from Paris to release the two.

'We do not recognize dual nationality. [Adelkhah] is Iranian. We do not let other states interfere in our judiciary matters,' Esmaili said.

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

Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, is serving a 10-year sentence after being found guilty of espionage.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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