As teachers protested across Iran amid government allegations of foreign influence in their campaign, France Thursday condemned the arrest of two French citizens.

France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs told Iran International in a communiqué Thursday it had summoned the Iranian charge d'affaires in Paris after Iran detained two French nationals on charges that they fomented teachers’ demonstrations. The ministry said the ambassador in Tehran had requested consular access to the detainees.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry claimed Wednesday that the two had met with members of the Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations, which has organized nation-wide teachers’ protests since last year. Iran International Wednesday named those arrested as Cécile Kohler, head of the biggest federation of French teachers' unions, and her husband.

The couple arrived in Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport April 29, stayed in Tehran for two days, and then went to Kashan and Esfahan. They were due to return home May 8, the day of their arrest. An intelligence ministry statement said Wednesday that the two went to Iranwith the aim of changing “popular” demand into “chaos, social disorder and destabilization of society.”

On Thursday, Iranian teachers took to streets for the third time in under two months despite the education ministry’s threat to fire them. According to videos posted to social media, teachers demanded better working conditions and the release of colleagues arrested in previous protests.

‘Reckless and cowardly’

The Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations said later in the day said that several people had been arrested after security forces used force to disperse the protesters in some cities, including Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, which Wednesday saw protests over increased food prices.

In a resolution published at the end of the Thursday’s rallies, protesting teachers condemned a "reckless and cowardly” attempt to attribute “decades” of their protests to foreign hands. In Tehran, police cordoned off streets leading to parliament, where teachers had gathered in previous protests. 

The protests and the arrest of French nationals occurred as Enrique Mora, the senior European Union official chairing talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), was in Tehran in an effort to restart the stalled negotiations. Republican Senator James Risch, a JCPOA opponent, said Wednesday that Iran’s detention of European nationals while Mora was in Tehran “should be the final nail in the coffin for any bad deal with Iran”.

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