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French Scientist Held in Iran

4 April 2007 (All day)
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Paris--On the day the Iranian government defused an international crisis by releasing 15 British sailors held captive since 23 March, a French newspaper revealed that Iran has also prevented a French scientist from leaving the country for more than 2 months. Sociologist Stéphane Dudoignon, of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, was arrested on 30 January after taking photos of a religious procession in southeastern Iran. He was later released, but he has not received his passport and other documents and is stuck in Tehran.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs had kept Dudoignon's detention under wraps, but confirmed it after it was reported today by the newspaper Le Monde. The French government says it has asked Iran to release Dudoignon, who also teaches at the Graduate School for Social Sciences Studies in Paris.

According to the newspaper, Dudoignon was working in Sistan-Baluchestan, a province bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan that's home to a sizable Sunni minority and the scene of recent unrest and violence against Iran's central government. A bomb blast in the provincial capital of Zahedan in February killed 11 members of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Yann Richard, a researcher at the Institute for Iranian Studies at the Université de Sorbonne Nouvelle in Paris, says Dudoignon told him that he was captured in an area harboring sensitive military installations that weren't on his maps. "Perhaps he shouldn't have been there, but he acted in good faith," Richard says. He says the Iranian government appears not to have charged Dudoignon with anything and believes it will release him eventually.

A spokesperson for CNRS declined to answer questions about Dudoignon's situation or his work. An expert on Central Asia and the history of Islam who has traveled extensively, Dudoignon was studying religious minorities in Iran; he has plans for a book on the topic, Richard says. Le Monde reported that Dudoignon is married to an Iranian woman and has stayed with his in-laws in Tehran while waiting for his situation to be resolved.

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