Iran holding academic ‘for political aims’ says France

Franco-Iranian academic Adelkhah Fariba had her five-year sentence upheld. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Iran holding academic ‘for political aims’ says France

  • Fariba Adelkhah was arrested in Tehran in June, 2019

PARIS: France on Tuesday accused Iran of holding French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah “only for political aims,” after the judiciary upheld a five-year jail sentence against her.
Adelkhah, a prominent anthropologist specializing in Shia Islam, was arrested in Tehran on June 5, 2019, and has been held behind bars ever since.
“We condemn this decision by the Iranian authorities who persist in holding Mrs.Fariba Adelkhah only for political aims, in the absence of any serious evidence or fact,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We remain determined to secure the release of our compatriot,” it added.
In May Adelkhah had been ordered to serve five years in prison after being convicted on national security charges.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili confirmed Tuesday that the sentence had been upheld.
She will “serve five years” including time served since her arrest, Esmaili told journalists.
The French foreign ministry said this could only have a negative impact on relations “and substantially reduces the confidence between our two countries.”
A France-based support committee for Adelkhah denounced the ruling as a “parody of justice.”
It called for her release, especially given the spread of COVID-19 in Iran, with Adelkhah still weak after a 49-day hunger strike she waged from December to February.
Relations between Tehran and Paris have deteriorated in the past year.
Both were parties to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
But last week, France was among the countries that passed a resolution at the UN’s nuclear watchdog calling on Iran to clarify whether it had undertaken undeclared nuclear activities in the early 2000s — a move condemned by the Islamic republic.
Also Tuesday, the Iranian judiciary said that Iranian opposition activist Ruhollah Zam had been sentenced to death following his arrest last year.
Zam, a refugee for several years in France, disappeared on a trip to Baghdad in October. Paris-based Press rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has accused Iran of abducting him in Iraq to face trial back home.


Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque

Updated 56 min 59 sec ago

Algeria to inaugurate Bouteflika-era mega mosque

  • Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, it is smaller only than the two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah
  • To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project and a symbol of the megalomania of former autocrat Bouteflika

ALGIERS: Algeria’s Grand Mosque, the world’s third-biggest and Africa’s largest, will host its first public prayers on Wednesday, a year and a half after construction was completed.
Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares (almost 70 acres), and is smaller only than the two mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Islam’s holiest sites, in Saudi Arabia.
To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project and a symbol of the megalomania of former autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out in April last year after mass street protests against his two-decade-long rule.
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune had been expected to inaugurate the mosque’s prayer hall — whose maximum capacity is 120,000 — at the event on Wednesday, the eve of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
But his presence was in doubt after his office announced the day before that he had been hospitalized.


Tebboune had gone into self-isolation last week following suspected coronavirus cases among his aides, but the presidency said Tuesday that Tebboune’s “state of health does not raise any concern.”
It was unclear how many people would be allowed to attend the prayers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The mosque’s interior, in Andalusian style, is decorated in wood, marble and alabaster.
It features six kilometers (3.7 miles) of Qur'anic text in Arabic calligraphy, along with turquoise prayer mats.
The mosque aims to be an important theological, cultural and research center, and the complex includes a library that can host a million books.
Featuring geometric architecture, it also boasts the world’s tallest minaret — 267 meters (875 feet) — fitted with elevators and a viewing platform that looks out over the capital and the Bay of Algiers.
The tallest such structure had previously been a 210-meter minaret in the Moroccan city of Casablanca.


But it has all come at a cost of over $1 billion in public money, according to finance ministry figures.
The seven-year construction work was completed in April 2019, three years behind schedule, and the company in charge, China State Construction Engineering (CSCEC), brought in laborers from China.
“There is a mosque in almost every neighborhood,” said Said Benmehdi, an Algiers resident in his seventies, whose two children are both unemployed.
He told AFP bitterly that he would have preferred for the “state to build factories and let young people work.”
Five imams preside over the mosques and five muezzins are responsible for conducting the call to prayer, said Kamel Chekkat, a member of Algeria’s ulema association of Muslim scholars.
He told AFP that the mosque would be tasked with “regulating and harmonizing fatwas with Algerian life.”
A multidisciplinary study and research group will examine the Qur'anic text and “its keeping with the times and above all, with science,” he added.
“The idea is that the Grand Mosque will be a place for combatting all types of radicalism, religious and secular,” Chekkat said.
But sociologist Belakhdar Mezouar said the mosque “was not built for the people.”
It is the “work of a man (Bouteflika) who wanted to compete with neighboring Morocco, make his name eternal and put this construction on his CV, so he could get into paradise on judgment day,” he said, adding that his opinion was widely shared.
Nadir Djermoune, who teaches town planning, criticized the “ostentatious choice” of such mega projects at a time when he said Algeria needed new health, education, sporting and recreational facilities.
The mosque is “isolated from the real needs of the city in terms of infrastructure,” he said.
The most positive point, he said, was its modernist concept, which “will serve as a model for future architectural projects.”