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Iran : the New Year and the pandemic put an end to the detention of political prisoners

Dear friends,

While we are all sharing in this rare and strange experience of confinement to our homes, the menace of the pandemic not far, it seems essential to continue to inform you of the situation of citizens, including researchers, writers, artists and journalists, who defend fundamental liberties in the world. It seems that the situations of these dissidents and whistle-blowers are heavily entangled with the defensive strategies of the affected states. We can observe this in China with the calvary of Dr. Li Wenliang who was punished by the Chinese authorities for having sounded the alarm in Wuhan, the same authorities who presented their condolences to the family of the deceased doctor and posthumously lifted his sanctions. More than ever, let’s remain vigilant and support the dissidents and whistle-blowers.

This week, while more than 800 million people in the world are placed in confinement to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, in Iran, a country strongly touched by the pandemic, they were celebrating Norouz, the new year that heralds Spring.

In this context, the Iranian government announced a huge liberation of prisoners in the middle of the week, to unclog the prisons where there is a growing risk of contagion, under the pretext of a collective pardon motivated by Norouz. Thus, more than 10,000 prisoners were freed, including many people who had been arrested at the demonstrations last November.

We were surprised to learn this morning of the liberation and return to France of researcher Roland Marchal, imprisoned in June 2019 along with his Franco-Iranian colleague and friend, Fariba Adelkhah. However, she is still incarcerated. They had been arrested by the Pasdarans, the “guardians of the revolution,” on June 5, 2019 at the Teheran airport. At the beginning of January, they were no longer accused of espionage, a charge punishable by death in Iran, but remained charged with “propaganda” against the regime and “collusion in a threat to national security,” which then carried a sentence of five years in prison.

The support committee commented this morning, continuing its fight to put an end to the arbitrary detention of the Franco-Iranian researcher. Classified as “scientific prisoners,” the two researchers have become targets by reason of their activism on the academic level. In a letter co-written with another prisoner, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, Fariba Adelkhah calls for academic freedom, in support of other scholars unjustly detained in Iran. The Iranian regime persists in deliberately endangering the lives of scholars. The “revolution guardians” distrust Farbia Adelkhah because of her excellent knowledge of the Iranian regime. Working on contemporary crises, the anthropologist is considered as a threat.

Translated from French to English by Sally Gordon-Mark​

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