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TEHRAN: Iranian authorities have arrested a left-wing activist suspected of meeting two French nationals detained since May on suspicion of fomenting labour unrest in the sanctions-hit country, state media reported Thursday.

The arrests have come as Iran battles a wave of labour unrest fuelled by the worsening economy and prospects for an easing of US sanctions have diminished.

“An activist of the Marxist left whose mission was to incite sedition and turmoil among the working class was arrested as he prepared to flee the country,” state television said.

“In a meeting ahead of International Labour Day (May 1), the detainee coordinated his activities with two French spies.”

The broadcaster did not identify the activist nor specify the date of his arrest. It said he had been picked up by intelligence agents in West Azerbaijan province, which borders Turkey.

Iran has been holding French teachers’ union official Cecile Kohler and her partner Jacques Paris since May 7 on suspicion of “entering the country to sow chaos and destabilise society”.

State television has aired footage of the couple from the moment they set foot in Iran on April 28.

French trade union officials have said the couple were on holiday in Iran over the Easter school break.

The French government has condemned their arrest as “baseless” and demanded their immediate release.

Iran’s schools have been hit by months of industrial action by teachers, with regular protests outside education ministry offices across the country.

On Wednesday, a group of independent UN rights experts expressed alarm over what they called a “violent crackdown” on teachers and wider civil society in Iran.

The experts, who are appointed by the UN but do not speak on its behalf, alleged that more than 80 teachers had been arrested or summoned by the authorities in the Islamic republic.

They also alleged five people had been killed in wider protests since the start of May, due to “excessive use of force by security forces”.

Iran’s economy has been reeling under punishing US sanctions imposed since 2018, when then president Donald Trump abandoned a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

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