The French researcher who spent nearly 10 months in an Iranian jail has publicly spoke out for the first time claiming isolation was worse than the interrogations.
Roland Marchal had been imprisoned in Iran since June 2019 before being freed last month in exchange for an Iranian prisoner released by the French authorities.
He said he only had an occasional book or exchange with a fellow inmate to keep him sane during his imprisonment.
In his first public statement since returning to France, communicated by his support group of friends and colleagues, Marchal said: “I was not physically tortured, but I suffered greatly from my confinement, and above all, my isolation.
“Much more than the interrogations, it was the confinement, very different to the type imposed on us because of COVID-19, which proved very painful.”
“Only the books, to which I had partial access, and friendships struck with a few inmates allowed me to hold on in a universe where each day resembles the previous and the next.”
Marchal was freed by Iran on 20th March after France released Iranian Jalal Rohollahnejad, who was facing extradition to the United States.
According to local media, Rohollahnejad was accused of trying to smuggle technology materials into Iran in violation of American imposes sanctions.
Marchal and his partner, fellow researcher Fariba Adelkhah, were arrested on accusations of plotting against Iran’s national security. The pair denied the accusations.
Meanwhile, Adelkhah, who has French and Iranian nationality, remains behind bars.
The pair works at the Centre for International Studies at the Sciences Po university in the French capital Paris.
Marchal said he was only able to see Adelkhah “three times” while in the Iranian prison and each visit was only for several minutes and “under the strict surveillance of interrogators”.
He learned later that Adelkhah had spent 49 days on hunger strike in protest at Iran’s detention of researchers before she was talked round by her support group because her health had deteriorated dramatically.
According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Iran has registered 62,589 cases of COVID-19 and 3,872 related deaths.
Local media said that the country’s inmates have been hit hard by the virus.
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