AFP: French academic appears in Tehran court

Nov 17, 20090 comments

(AFP) – Nov 17, 2009

frenchacademicPARIS — A French academic arrested after Iran’s disputed election appeared before a Revolutionary Court in Tehran on Tuesday and was then allowed to return to her country’s embassy, French officials said. Clotilde Reiss has been holed up at the French embassy in Tehran since she was released on bail in August after making a first trial appearance on charges of “collecting information and provoking rioters.” “She appeared before the judge and then came out and returned to the embassy,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero in Paris. The Tehran court did not render a verdict in the case and French officials did not rule out yet another court appearance for the 24-year-old woman, who taught French at a university in Isfahan, central Iran. “We want her to be declared innocent and that she be allowed to return to France,” added Valero. Iran’s Mehr news agency quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi as saying that the judge presiding over the trial “will decide whether today’s session was her last or not.” The academic’s father told France 3 television that he had spoken to his daughter by phone after the trial hearing and that “she was doing fine.” “She is very pleased because the hearing took place in a much more positive atmosphere than that of the first appearance,” said Remi Reiss. The father did not have have details about the proceedings but he sounded optimistic about the trial outcome. “Things are progressing. There are new prospects,” he said. Ahead of the hearing, France had demanded formal guarantees from Iran that it would not jail Reiss but allow her to return to the embassy while she awaited a verdict. But Iran offered no such guarantees and said the French demands were unjustified. Reiss was preparing to fly home after completing a six-month teaching and research assignment in Isfahan when in June she witnessed the mass protests, took pictures and emailed them to friends. Scores of reformers, journalists and opposition supporters were jailed in a government crackdown following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election and more than 140 have appeared in mass trials. France has insisted that Reiss is not guilty and has demanded her unconditional release. The foreign ministry spokesman said Reiss was accompanied by her lawyer and that the French ambassador as well as the first counsellor were also allowed to attend the hearing. “This would have been what is known as the final defence, the hearing that precedes a judgement. Now we are waiting for the following stage,” said Valero. President Nicolas Sarkozy in September rejected as “blackmail” a tit-for-tat offer from Iran to release Reiss if France reciprocates by freeing Iranian prisoners including Ali Vakili Rad, convicted for the 1991 murder in Paris of Shapour Bakhtiar, Iran’s last prime minister under the shah. The arrest of Reiss has stoked tensions between France and Iran, which already are at odds over Tehran’s nuclear programme and Paris’ harsh criticism of the regime’s crackdown on opposition protesters. Copyright © 2009 AFP. All rights reserved.