TEHRAN, (Reuters) – The lawyer for a French teaching assistant who was arrested on spying charges after Iran’s disputed election in June last year said on Saturday she would be acquitted by Sunday.
Mohammad Ali Mahdavi-Sabet said Clotilde Reiss faced a cash fine for minor charges, but did not elaborate on what the charges were. A $285,000 payment for the fine had been made and he expected her passport to be returned to her on Sunday. “The case of Clotilde Reiss is finished. The court will acquit my client of (spying) charges by Sunday,” Mahdavi-Sabet told Reuters. “I have paid a fine of $285,000 this morning. I will get her passport tomorrow and she will be allowed to leave immediately after.”
Judiciary officials were not immediately available for comment.
Reiss, who has been out of jail on bail and staying at the French embassy, was accused of taking part in a Western plot to destabilise the Iranian government after the June 12 vote in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected. The lawyer said she had been sentenced to “two five-year parallel (jail) sentences for various charges”. “But it was commuted to a cash fine … using Islamic clemency,” he said. Her case has raised tensions between France and Iran, already at odds over Tehran’s nuclear programme. France says Reiss is innocent and has demanded her immediate release. “We have taken note of the legal decision regarding Clotilde Reiss and we await her return without delay,” French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said on Saturday.
Reiss was arrested in Tehran in July when preparing to leave the Islamic state after a five-month stint working at the University of Isfahan. She was among thousands of people detained over widespread post-election unrest. Most of them have been freed. Defeated moderate candidates say the election was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The authorities deny this.
The Reiss case has been running at the same time as that of Iranian engineer Majid Kakavand, who was arrested in March 2009 at a Paris airport and served five months in detention in a French jail after his arrest. He was later freed on bail and a U.S. request for Kakavand to be extradited was rejected by a French court on May 5 after authorities concluded he had not broken French law.
Washington had issued a warrant accusing Kakavand of illegally buying electronic equipment for military use in violation of a trade embargo on Iran over its disputed nuclear activities.
In the Reiss case, Ahmadinejad had called on France last September to consider a prisoner swap if Paris wanted to secure her release, without naming Iranian prisoners he wanted to see freed. France dismissed the suggestion as “blackmail”.
An Iranian national, Vakili Rad, is serving a life sentence for the 1991 murder in France of Shapour Bakhtiar — Iran’s last prime minister under the Shah. He came due for parole in July 2009 and his lawyer immediately petitioned for his release. A French judge is due to rule on the parole request on May 18.
The United States and its European allies fear Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons under cover of its civilian programme and are negotiating a fourth set of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iran over its atomic programme. Iran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity.