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Iran sentences French-Iranian to six years in prison on national security charges

Supporters of Fariba Adelkhah accuse Iran of using jailed academic as 'pawn' with false charges
Supporters are worried about Fariba Adelkhah's health during the coronavirus pandemic (AFP)

Iran has sentenced 60-year-old French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah to six years in prison over national security charges and allegations of propaganda against the state, her lawyer said on Saturday.  

"The court has sentenced her to six years," said Saeid Dehghan. "The branch 15 of Tehran's Revolutionary Court has sentenced her to five years jail for gathering and conspiring against Iran's national security. She was also sentenced to one year jail term for propaganda against the Islamic Republic." Dehghan said he would appeal against the sentence.

"This is outrageous. Fariba is innocent and only used as a pawn by Iran. Bring her home to France," tweeted the campaign calling for anthropologist Adelkhah's release. Supporters have warned that her health is fragile, making her vulnerable to Covid-19. The coronavirus pandemic has led to Iran temporarily releasing tens of thousands of prisoners. 

"This sentencing is not based on any serious element or fact and is thus a political decision," the French foreign ministry said in a statement. 

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According to Sciences Po in Paris, where Adelkhah is a research director, she suffered severe kidney damage in February after a 49-day hunger strike. 

Iran has refused attempts to negotiate Adelkhah's release since she was arrested in June 2019, but released her French colleague and partner Roland Marchal in March.

Marchal was freed after France released Iranian engineer Jallal Rohollahnejad, who faced extradition to the United States over accusations that he violated US sanctions against Iran.

Adelkhah's lawyer, Saeed Dehghan, said Marchal's release gives grounds for appeal against the charge of "gathering and conspiring against national security".

"At least two people must be involved for this charge to stand," he said. 

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Adelkhah's defence team also plans to argue that her personal academic opinion regarding the Islamic dress code enforced in Iran cannot amount to "propaganda against a political system," for which she was given an extra year in prison that they hope she will not have to serve. 

Adelkhah has dual nationality, but her French citizenship is not recognised by Iran, which has claimed attempts to release her amounted to interfering in Tehran's internal affairs.

She initially also faced espionage charges but saw them dropped in March. 

A number of other dual nationals have been jailed in Iran on similar charges in recent years, including British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is serving a five-year sentence.

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