Clothilde Reiss is home in France again

17 May 2010

Clothilde Reiss, a young French teacher arrested in Iran on spying charges last July for photographing demonstrations there, flew home on Sunday. French officials repeated their denials that the release of Clotilde Reiss, 24, was part of a prisoner-exchange deal with Tehran.
Arriving at a Paris military airport, Reiss was reunited with her family and then driven off to meet President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife at the Élysée Palace. Ms. Reiss said that she wanted “to thank everyone who has helped me in this ordeal, starting with the president, for his support and for defending my innocence from the moment I was arrested.” On Saturday, her lawyer in Tehran said that she had been convicted of espionage and sentenced to 10 years in jail, but that the court reduced her punishment to a fine of three billion rials, or just over $300,000, which he paid. It is not clear who will reimburse him.
Ms. Reiss was arrested at Tehran’s airport on July 1 as she prepared to leave the country after a six-month teaching job in Isfahan. She had participated in demonstrations against the election in June that kept President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power and that was widely viewed as rigged. She took photographs of street clashes and sent them via e-mail to friends, as well as to the French Embassy in Tehran. After six weeks in Evin Prison, she was released on bail to the custody of the embassy.
French officials have said the charges against her were baseless and also denied that her release was in exchange for a French court’s decision on May 5 to deny an American extradition request for an Iranian businessman accused of violating the trade embargo against Iran. Justice Department officials in Washington said they suspected that the release of the businessman, Majid Kakavand, 37, was a quid pro quo for the release of Ms. Reiss.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied any deal again on Sunday. “There is no connection between these two Iranian cases, which were dealt with by the French justice system, and the freedom of our hostage,” he told a radio station. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman also told the Iranian news agency, Fars, that there had been no deal. On Tuesday, however, there is a parole hearing in another case, that of an Iranian serving a life sentence in a French jail for the 1991 assassination in Paris of Shapour Bakhtiar, the exiled former Iranian prime minister. The killer, Ali Vakili Rad, was expected by the French news media to be paroled and then expelled to Iran.
Mr. Sarkozy thanked three presidents — Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Bashar al-Assad of Syria — for their “active role” in Ms. Reiss’s release. Ms. Reiss said her thoughts were with her fellow prisoners. She paid “particular homage,” she said, “to the two men you saw on television beside me at my trial, who have been executed.”

source: NYT

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