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No verdict for Clotilde Reiss as trial drags on

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-12-23

No verdict has been reached after what was supposed to be French academic Clotilde Reiss' final hearing in Tehran. Reiss was arrested in Iran in the wake of June's disputed presidential election.

The trial in Iran of French academic Clotilde Reiss, accused of stoking anti-government protests last June, resumed on Wednesday. Although her family had hoped for a quick verdict and her return to France, Reiss’s lawyer said the final part of pleadings would be made at a future hearing, without specifying when that would be held.
 
“(Reiss) has been held for more than six months now. Everyone is trying to be optimistic although it’s difficult to know what the outcome will be. This is a really sensitive file”, French daily Le Figaro’s correspondent in Beirut, Delphine Minoui, told FRANCE 24.
 
Prisoner swap
 
France claims Iran has asked for the liberation of convicted assassin Ali Vakili Rad in exchange for the release of the 24-year-old French teacher and researcher. Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had previously raised the issue of Iranian prisoners in France, implied that Reiss’ release would depend on the “attitude’ of French authorities
 
Paris has repeatedly refused any prisoner swap, insisting that its judicial system is
independent of political decisions. It claims that Iran’s stance proves that Reiss is held on political grounds, and not on the spying charges Iran holds against the young academic.
 
“Again, very recently, the Iranian ambassador came to see us and repeated the wish of the Iranians to see an exchange. President Sarkozy has been very clear, there's no question of an exchange,” France’s foreign affairs minister, Bernard Kouchner, told lawmakers on Thursday. In September, Sarkozy had already branded Iranian demands “blackmail”.
 
“Clotilde Reiss is innocent of everything she is being accused of”, said Kouchner on Tuesday. “I hope this will be recognised by the Iranian justice system and that she will be allowed to go home to her family.” Reiss’s family has also strongly rejected all spying charges against the young teacher, and called for her release.
 
Meanwhile, Rad’s lawyer said his client wanted to be kept out of all political considerations. “My client does not want to be the object of any exchange between France and Iran. He is asking for nothing, he just wants to be paroled without reference to any political manoeuvres,” defence counsel Sorin Margulis told AFP. Valiki Rad was convicted of the murder in France of exiled former Iranian premier Shapour Bakhtiar in 1994 and sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in prison.
 
Closed door negotiations?
 
“Although France has officially ruled out prisoner exchanges, we really don’t know whether negotiations have gone on behind closed doors. All we know is that Rad may be released on parole before the end of his minimum term,” said Le Figaro’s Minoui, suggesting this might not be a mere “coincidence”.
 
Reiss was arrested in the wake of the protests that followed the disputed re-election of hardliner Ahmadinejad last June. She was due to fly home after a six-month study and teaching visit to the Iranian city of Isfahan.
 
She was accused of spying for France and of supporting Iran’s emerging opposition movement, and was one of scores of alleged dissidents paraded before cameras at a televised show trial. In August, Reiss was freed on a 200,000-euro bail paid by the French government, on condition that she remain confined in the French embassy in Tehran to await her final verdict.

Date created : 2009-12-23

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