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French Businesswoman Has Been In Iranian Custody Since October, Paris Confirms


French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian

A French citizen has been in Iranian custody since October, France’s foreign minister has confirmed.

Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers on February 20 that Nelly Erin-Cambervelle, a 59-year-old businesswoman from the French Caribbean island of Martinique, was arrested on the Iranian island of Kish on October 21 for allegedly “signing an illegal mining contract and carrying out an unauthorized trip."

Her arrest had not been confirmed by French authorities until now.

Details over the arrest first appeared in local Martinique media last week after a friend and colleague of Erin-Cambervelle was quoted as saying that she had been arrested for illegally buying gold after originally going to Kish to negotiate a minerals contract.

The friend, Patricia Gros-Desirs Dicanot, said that the Iranian authorities were demanding 40,000 euros ($45,392) for her release.

Relations between Paris and Tehran have been strained over the past months despite the two sides committing to upholding the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers -- which the United States exited in May last year.

Paris suspended nominating a new ambassador to Iran after accusing Iran’s Intelligence Ministry of being behind an alleged plot to bomb a rally of an exiled opposition group in June.

Tehran has rejected the accusation.

Le Drian said that French consular services had met Erin-Cambervelle several times and were “very concerned about her situation."

The minister also said that she "did not complain about the custodial conditions and appeared to be in good physical and moral health."

"We are in touch with the family and with the Iranian authorities to ensure that Mrs. Erin[-Cambervelle]'s situation improves, while respecting Iranian procedures," he said.

Le Drian declined to give any further details on the case, saying Erin-Cambervelle’s family did not wish it to be publicized.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the case.

With reporting by Reuters and Le Monde
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