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French academic jailed in Iran ‘very weakened’ by hunger strike: Committee

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A French-Iranian academic jailed in Iran in a case that has raised tensions between Paris and Tehran is very weakened by a hunger strike that she began in late December and refuses to halt, a support committee said on Monday.

Fariba Adelkhah, who was detained in June, has been on hunger strike since December 24 in Evin prison in Tehran as she awaits her trial.

“She is very weakened and is finding it hard to keep her balance,” the Paris-based support committee seeking her release said in a statement.

“Despite calls by us and pressure from the prison and judicial authorities, she has still not stopped her hunger strike.”

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Fellow researcher Roland Marchal, who was detained at the same time as Adelkhah, is “distraught” and dealing with health problems that are being worsened by his incarceration, the committee said.

Both were summoned for separate hearings on February 5 at the Revolutionary Court that is handling the case without their lawyers present.

The hearings were overseen by the hardline judge Abolqasem Salavati, who has presided over several controversial cases in recent years.

They are both charged with “colluding to commit acts against national security.” Initial espionage charges against Adelkhah have been dropped.

“They consider they are now facing a long judicial procedure without end,” the support committee said, adding that it appeared a trial should begin before Iran’s New Year holidays start on March 20.

Dual national Adelkhah, an expert on Shiite Islam, and East Africa expert Marchal, a French citizen, are both researchers with Sciences Po University in Paris.

Iran is holding numerous Western citizens in prison, adding to tensions between Tehran and the West following the unilateral rejection by the US of the 2015 deal on the Iranian nuclear program.

Australian Kylie Moore-Gilbert of the University of Melbourne is serving a 10-year sentence on espionage charges and British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed for five years.

According to rights groups outside Iran, at least 11 foreign or dual nationals are currently being held in Iranian prisons following arrest by the Revolutionary Guards or intelligence ministry.

Also jailed and serving a 10-year sentence is Iranian American businessman Siamak Namazi, who has been held since 2015.

His elderly father Mohammad Bagher Namazi, who was arrested after visiting his son, is on a restricted medical leave and cannot leave Iran.