PARIS (Reuters) – France is in touch with Iran to improve the conditions of a French woman who was arrested in October on the Gulf island of Kish for allegedly signing an illegal mining contract, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Wednesday.
Nelly Erin-Cambervelle, a 59-year-old businesswoman from Martinique, had been on the island as part of her import-export business and her arrest until now had not been made public.
“She went to Kish island, not far from Dubai, which is considered to be Iranian territory. She was arrested and she is today in prison since Oct. 21, 2018 on the grounds of having signed an illegal contract and carrying out a non-authorised trip,” Le Drian told lawmakers.
Details over her arrest first appeared in the local Martinique media last week after Patricia Gros-Desirs Dicanot, 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 begin negotiating a minerals contract.
Dicanot said that the Iranian authorities were demanding 40,000 euros ($45,392) for her release.
Le Drian declined to give any further details on the specifics of the case.
“The consular services have been able to meet her several times and are very concerned about her situation,” Le Drian said. “We are in touch with the family and with the Iranian authorities to ensure that Mrs Erin’s situation improves, while respecting Iranian procedures.”
Iranian officials did not immediately respond for comment.
Relations between France and Iran have been strained over the last six months despite the two sides committing to upholding a 2015 nuclear deal.
Paris suspended nominating a new ambassador to Iran last year after an alleged plot by Iranian intelligence and had not responded to Tehran nominations for the top diplomatic post in France.
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(Reporting by John Irish and Parisa Hafezi; editing by Leigh Thomas)