Iran Releases French Scholar in Prisoner-Exchange Agreement

A French scholar and an Iranian engineer have both been released in a prisoner exchange between France and the Islamic Republic.

Roland Marchal was freed and is traveling back to his home country, the office of President Emmanuel Macron said in a statement on Saturday. A colleague of the academic told France Info radio he had been exposed to the coronavirus.

Jalal Rouhollahnejad, an Iranian engineer who was arrested in France last year, has been handed over to his country’s embassy in Paris and is on his way back to Iran, Gholamhossein Esmaili, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said, according to the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency.

French authorities had planned to extradite Rouhollahnejad to the U.S. at Washington’s request on charges related to sanctions evasion, Esmaili said. The Elysee palace didn’t respond when asked if French authorities had discussed the prisoner swap with U.S. Authorities.

Fariba Adelkhah, a scholar with dual French-Iranian citizenship, remains under arrest in Iran. She and Marchal had been accused of spreading propaganda against the Iranian regime and colluding to undermine national security.

The swap comes after some 85,000 prisoners in Iran were released on furlough following a major outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, where it has so far killed more than 1,500 people.

The freed prisoners include Michael White, an American citizen and Navy veteran imprisoned in Iran since 2018. He has been released to the Swiss Embassy in Tehran on medical grounds, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday. His brother wrote on Twitter that he had showed symptoms of the coronavirus.

British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released from an Iranian jail earlier this week, although temporarily, the U.K. Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in an emailed statement. She’s been detained since April 2016 for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian government.

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