Iran, France to swap Iranian engineer, French academic

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran and France have agreed to swap a French academic held on security charges and an Iranian detained by Paris over 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.

France had demanded that Iran release Marchal, a senior researcher at Sciences Po university whose arrest was reported by Paris in mid-October.

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’s elite 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.

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