Robert HARNEIS -TDO-(FRANCE)- Iran and France have carried out a prisoner swap, Tehran has confirmed. The Islamic Republic released a French academic, Roland Marchal, to the French Embassy in Tehran.
Hours earlier, an Iranian engineer, Jalal Rohollahnejad, who was detained by France last year under a US extradition warrant, was freed by French authorities.
Iran had previously accused Paris of holding the Iranian national without due process. France made similar allegations regarding Tehran's detention of Marchal, with the issue straining bilateral relations.
A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary hailed the exchange as "an act of mutual cooperation."
The case is of particular interest because the highest court of appeal in France, Cassation, ruled in March that Rohollahnejad could be extradited to the United States where he was wanted for breach of US imposed sanctions. It only remained for the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to give his consent, which he never did.
Jalal Rohollahnejad was accused of negotiating the importation into Iran of hi-tech microwave equipment, important in anti-drone operations. He is a fiber optic engineer. Rohollahnejad claimed to be in France in connection with research into under ground water resources in the Persian Gulf.
What has saved the Iranian from long years in a US prison is the detention in Iran of two French University researchers Fariba Adelkhah et Roland Marchal. They are anthropologists but were accused of crimes against the Iranian state. Many believe that they were imprisoned to be used as bargaining chips in negotiations with the French government.
The case of Fariba Adelkhah is complicated by being born in Iran and therefore, in the eyes of the Iranian government, an Iranian citizen. Although she has French citizenship, Iran does not recognize dual nationality.
There has been no reaction yet from the US government which is not used to having its requests for extradition denied by its allies. However, a number of other countries, notably Germany, have negotiated prisoner swaps where Iranian citizens risked extradition to the United States. Iran has also negotiated prisoner swaps with the US itself.