Emmanuel Macron has made a personal plea for the release of French-Iranian researcher Fariba Adelkhah from a Tehran jail ahead of a protest by her supporters on streets in Paris on Friday, a year after she was first detained.
The 61-year-old was last month sentenced to six years in prison on national security charges and is being held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. She is one of a number of Western-linked hostages in the Iranian prison system.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian were among those to call for her release on Friday.
“A year ago, Fariba Adelkhah was arbitrarily arrested in Iran,” Mr Macron said.
“It is unacceptable that she is still in prison. My message to the Iranian authorities: justice requires that our compatriot be immediately released,” he added.
Mr Le Drian warned her plight could damage relations between Iran and France after he concluded that she was being held as a political prisoner.
“Today, I once again formally demand on behalf of France the immediate liberation by Iran of Madame Adelkhah,” he said.
“This ongoing situation can only have a negative impact on the bilateral relations between France and Iran, and can only significantly reduce the trust between our two countries,” he added.
She is being held in Evin prison, where British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained for almost five years. Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's Tehran-based lawyer was reported to have said on Friday that her parole has been extended as relatives continue to hope for clemency and her return to her London home.
The charity worker has been out of prison since March as Iran struggled to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.
She was arrested in April 2016 after visiting her parents with her young daughter and sentenced to a five-year sentence on unspecified national security offenses.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is engaged in a bid for clemency but her lawyer has been rebuffed on two occasions, leading her husband to say she has been put through “psychological torture”.
Her lawyer will report back to prosecutors on Saturday for an update on the rumoured clemency, which has so far been blocked by hardliners in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp.
Ms Adelkhah is an anthropologist at Sciences Po who has researched Shia clerics and written a book on women in Iran.
Last year she began a hunger strike that lasted 49 days and only ended when she was admitted to hospital with severe kidney damage.
Her partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was imprisoned in Iran since June last year, was released in March.