A French presidency official has said on March 21 that Iran has released the French academic Roland Marchal who was imprisoned in the Islamic Republic since June 2019. According to an international news agency, Marchal is due to arrive in France around midday on March 21. (local time). French President Emmanuel Macron also urged Iran to release another French citizen Fariba Adelkhah who still remains in prison but reportedly has an Iranian passport.
According to Iranian state media, Iran and France have agreed on a prisoner swap by releasing Marchal held on security charges in exchange of Iranian detained by Paris over the alleged violations of the United States sanctions against Tehran.
France has released Jalal Ruhollahnejad, who is an Iranian engineer and is wanted by Washington over sanction charges. It was in May 2019, when the French court had approved the extradition of the engineer from the Islamic Republic to the United States to face the charges of attempting to illegally import American technology for military purposes on behalf of another Iranian company. According to the US authorities, the Iranian company is linked to the elite Revolutionary Guards.
The detention of French academics had fueled the distrust between France and Iran especially when French President Emmanuel Macron has been willing to defuse the existing tensions. The French pair are reportedly not the only foreigners detained in Iran but the country has also imprisoned Kylie Moore-Gillbert of the University of Melbourne. Canberra has also expressed its 'deep concern' over the Australian academic's case after Gillbert lost an appeal against a 10-year jail sentence and began a hunger strike on Christmas Eve.
According to the statement by French foreign ministry after meeting Tehran official, Adelkhah 'has stopped taking food' and expressed 'grave concern'. However, international reports state that Tehran still maintains its stance and criticised Paris for 'unacceptable interference'.