French teacher returns home after being held in Iran for ten months

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Evin Prison in 1999, where Reiss was first held

24-year-old Clotilde Reiss, a French teaching assistant who had been detained in Iran for ten months, returned to France Sunday.

Iranian officials arrested Reiss as she was about to leave the country on July 1, 2009. The arrest came after she had attended a protest regarding the country's elections, with the officials calling her a foreign spy. Reiss was in Iran for a five-month teaching position in Isfahan, and was later sent from Tehran's Evin Prison to the French Embassy on bail. During the trial, which included over 100 others thought to be trying to cause a coup, she pleaded not guilty and said that she only went to the protest because she was curious. Reiss was originally given two five-year sentences of jail time for spying and provoking unrest, but the sentence was reduced to a 300 billion IRR fine, or about USD300,000. Reiss' lawyer said that the money was given on Saturday, freeing the young academic.

Reiss landed at Vélizy – Villacoublay Air Base Sunday afternoon. She met French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Élysée Palace in Paris shortly after. Sarkozy later released a statement thanking the presidents of Brazil, Senegal, and Syria for aiding in Reiss' return, but did not elaborate on the role each played.

The governments of both France and Iran have denied rumors that Reiss' freedom was part of a deal involving two Iranians in France. One of the two, Majid Kakavand, was released a couple of weeks ago after France refused on May 5 to extradite him to the U.S. The other, Ali Vakili Rad, will likely receive parole and return to Iran later today. Kakavand had supposedly tried to give U.S. goods to the Iranian military, while Rad was responsible for the assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar in 1991.


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