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Iran, France Swapping Iranian Engineer, French Academic

Roland Marchal, a senior researcher from Paris. FILE PHOTO
Roland Marchal, a senior researcher from Paris. FILE PHOTO

Iran and France have agreed to swap a French academic held on security charges and an Iranian detained by Paris over alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Tehran, Iranian state media reported on Friday.

France has released Jalal Ruhollahnejad, an Iranian engineer wanted by U.S. authorities over sanctions charges, state broadcaster IRIB said on its website.

"Roland Gabriel Marchal, who was sentenced to five years' imprisonment for acting against national security ... had his sentence reduced and was released from prison today and handed over to the French embassy in Tehran," IRIB also reported.

President Emmanuel Macron announced Saturday that Iran has freed Marchal imprisoned in the Islamic republic after France released Rouhollahnejad.

Macron "is happy to announce the release of Roland Marchal, imprisoned in Iran since June 2019" but he "urges the Iranian authorities to immediately free" Fariba Adelkhah, an anthropologist, his office said.

France has for months demanded that Iran release Adelkhah and her partner Marchal, who were detained in June 2019, accused of plotting against national security. Their trial began in early March.

Adelkhah is a citizen of both Iran and France, but Tehran does not recognise dual nationality.

Iran has in recent months carried out prisoner exchanges with the US, Australia and Germany.

Marchal is due in France later Saturday, according to Macron's office.

There had been talk of an exchange being discussed, but French officials had refused to comment directly, saying only that there had been progress in recent days.

In May, a French court approved the extradition of Rouhollahnejad to the United States to face charges of attempting to illegally import U.S. technology for military purposes on behalf of an Iranian company which U.S. officials said was linked to the elite Revolutionary Guards.

The detentions have complicated ties between the two countries during a period when French President Emmanuel Macron was seeking to defuse tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Iran Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals in recent years, mostly on espionage charges. The detentions have coincided with a protracted standoff with Western powers prompted by a U.S. decision to withdraw from an international agreement to curb Iranian nuclear activities.

Rights activists have accused Iran of arresting the dual nationals and foreign citizens in an attempt to win concessions from other countries - a charge that the Islamic Republic has regularly dismissed.

Reporting by Reuters, AFP