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France refuses to swap Iranian prisoner for Clotilde Reiss

Text by: NEWS WIRES
2 min

France has refused to exchange Clotilde Reiss, a French academic charged in Tehran with taking part in opposition protests, for an Iranian agent jailed in France for murder, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said.

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AFP - France has refused to exchange a French academic charged in Tehran with taking part in anti-regime protests for an Iranian agent jailed in France for murder, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Monday.

Kouchner told reporters that Iran was seeking the release of Ali Vakili Rad, who was found guilty in 1994 of the 1991 killing in France of Shapour Bakhtiar, an exile who had served as prime minister under the former Shah of Iran.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has suggested that Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old French researcher who is in Tehran awaiting a verdict in her trial for taking part in protests, could be swapped for Vakili Rad, he said.

"There's no question of that. Even if we wanted to, we couldn't," Kouchner said, citing France's tradition of judicial independence, adding that he had been told that Reiss would face her final trial hearing this week.

"She's been summoned on Wednesday for a new court hearing, her last. I'm in favour of her going," Kouchner said at a Paris breakfast for journalists.
  

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Reiss was arrested in the wake of the protests that followed Iran's disputed presidential election in June, shortly before she was due to fly home after a six-month study and teaching visit to the Iranian city of Isfahan.

She was accused of supporting the opposition protests and was one of scores of alleged dissidents paraded before camera at a televised show trial, before being remanded in custody Tehran's notorious Evin jail.

In August, Reiss was granted bail on condition that she await her final sentencing at the French embassy in Tehran, where she has remained. France has firmly denied Iranian charges that she was involved in spying.

On Friday, Ahmadinejad told AFP that he was ready to release Reiss but that the decision would "depend on the French authorities."

Bakhtiar was assassinated in the Paris suburb of Suresnes in 1991.

Vakili Rad was arrested in Switzerland and extradited to France, where he admitted at trial that he had been sent by Iran's Islamic government to kill a man who had served under the Shah's hated former regime.

He was sentenced to life in jail, and remains in custody in France.

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