Iran urged to drop charges against French lecturer

18th August 2009, Comments 0 comments

France renews demand for Tehran to drop spying charges against French academic Clotilde Reiss who was released on bail on Sunday.

Paris – France on Monday renewed its demand for Tehran to drop charges against a French academic who was accused of spying during post-election unrest in Iran, after she was released from prison on bail.

University teaching assistant Clotilde Reiss, 24, was freed from the capital's Evin prison late Sunday and transferred to the French embassy to await a verdict, after appearing in a televised mass trial on 8 August.

"This release on bail is just a first step," French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told a news conference, repeating demands that her case, and that against a Franco-Iranian embassy worker, be thrown out.

"We demand that the legal proceedings against Clotilde Reiss and Nazak Afshar, which nothing can justify, are dropped as soon as possible," he said.

Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner later confirmed that Paris had paid "around 200,000 euros" in bail to secure Reiss's release from prison.

"Of course we hope to be reimbursed, because she is innocent and that will be recognised," Kouchner said on cable news channel LCI.

"We can expect, we must expect, a verdict that recognises her innocence," he added.

The Tehran prosecutor earlier said Reiss's bail had been set at 300,000 dollars, according to the Mehr news agency.

The French foreign ministry also said President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke directly with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad to enlist his help in winning Reiss's release.

France had already praised Syria, a former pariah which is in the process of mending strained ties with Paris and is Iran's closest Arab ally, for helping negotiate Afshar's release, and did so again in the case of Reiss.

Scores of reformists, journalists and opposition supporters were jailed in the wake of mass protests that erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, and around 140 have appeared in mass trials.

Reiss was seized at Tehran airport as she tried to fly home after completing a six-month teaching and research assignment in the central city of Isfahan.

According to Kouchner, Iranian authorities accused her of spying after she took souvenir photographs of the marches and sent them to friends. State media in Iran have said she has also admitted sending a report to the French embassy.

France has demanded her unconditional release, but Iranian prosecutors have said she must remain in Iran pending the verdict.

AFP / Expatica

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