Iran releases Frenchman held for 15 months

26th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

TEHRAN, Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) - A French national jailed in Iran for more than a year for straying into territorial waters during a fishing expedition was released on Sunday, French diplomats said.

TEHRAN, Feb 25, 2007 (AFP) - A French national jailed in Iran for more than a year for straying into territorial waters during a fishing expedition was released on Sunday, French diplomats said.

Stephane Lherbier was arrested on November 29, 2005 and sentenced to 18 months in prison along with German Donald Klein, who could also be released in the coming days.

"The consul went to get him (Lherbier) from Evin prison this afternoon," a French diplomat in Tehran told AFP on condition of anonymity. "He's a little surprised but happy to be free."

The diplomat said Lherbier would leave Iran in the coming hours.

The Frenchman was granted clemency by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said earlier in Paris, adding that he hoped that Klein would also be released under the same measure in the coming days.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Berlin called on the Islamic republic to free Klein also.

"Whatever the relief after the liberation of Lherbier, Donald Klein, who was jailed at the same time, must also now be freed. We have today sent the Iranian government a clear request in this regard," he said, asking not to be named.

French skipper Lherbier and his client Klein were arrested in November 2005 after straying into Iranian waters on a boat trip from the United Arab Emirates across the Gulf.

They said they had been misled by Emirati maps showing the waters as Emirati, but were sentenced to 18 months in jail two months later.

Klein's wife Karin appealed last year for clemency because of her husband's fragile health.

Last October, Iran dismissed an appeal for early release by the pair, saying their original sentence was already lenient. But it noted they were entitled to make another request for parole.

Both Germany and France -- two countries that have been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to solve the ongoing standoff over Iran's nuclear programme -- have repeatedly called for the men's release.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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