France demands Iran release French woman

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A 23-year-old French university teaching assistant has been held on spying charges since last week.

Paris – France called on Iran Monday to release a 23-year-old French university teaching assistant who has been held on spying charges since last week.

Clotilde Reiss was arrested at Tehran airport last Wednesday as she was about to leave the country, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told France 3 television.

"We want everything to come to light, for this young woman to be freed," Kouchner said, insisting that she was innocent.

"There is no reason for Clotilde to be detained," he said. "We demand her release."

Reiss was a teaching assistant at the university of Isfahan in central Iran and was on her way to Beirut when she was arrested, said a French diplomatic source close to the case.

The woman is said to have attended protests in Isfahan after the disputed 12 June election in which hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected, the source said.

The spy charge is linked to a private email she sent to a friend in Tehran discussing the situation in Isfahan, the diplomatic source said.

Kouchner said the charges were related to "the sending of pictures taken by mobile telephone."

"I think that's what it's about. That's not espionage, it cannot be. This accusation is absurd," he said.

"She was a classic young student who was doing her job, who witnessed protests like millions of Iranians," the top French diplomat said.

The diplomatic source said Reiss was being held in Tehran's infamous Evin prison.

The woman had been in Iran for five months when she was arrested, the French foreign ministry said in statement earlier.

"We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately release our compatriot and authorise her to leave Iran toward France," the ministry said.

"France has informed its European partners about his subject and appeals for the solidarity of all Europeans."

The announcement came as the 27-nation European Union mulls a response to Iran's arrest of local British embassy staff members in Tehran.

All but one of the nine local employees have been released. Iran has accused them of instigating riots over the contested re-election of Ahmadinejad.

AFP / Expatica

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