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French Academic Freed by Iran Arrives in Paris

  • Lisa Bryant

A French academic arrived home from Iran on Sunday, after being detained for 10 months on spying charges. The French government denies any bargaining to secure her release.

French academic Clotilde Reiss was welcomed home Sunday by President Nicolas Sarkozy, shortly after arriving on a French government jet. She spoke briefly to reporters after the meeting.

The 24-year-old researcher thanked Mr. Sarkozy for claiming her innocence and paid tribute to two colleagues who were executed in Iran. Both had appeared at her trial last year on spying charges.

Reiss was arrested in Iran last July after attending anti-governnment protests. She had spent a year in the country as a university teacher. Iranian authorities convicted her of spying and imposed a 10-year prison sentence. Her lawyer says she was released after payment of a fine of about $300,000.

The Reiss case had complicated French efforts to back tougher international penalties against Tehran over its nuclear program.

The release comes just five days after a French court rejected an American request to extradite an Iranian businessman suspected of violating a U.S. embargo by sending restricted technology to Iran. The businessman subsequently returned to Iran.

Last fall, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had suggested France and Iran should exchange prisoners held in each other's jails.

But on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied any trade had taken place.

Kouchner said the government did not influence the decision of French judges to release the Iranian. He said no bargaining took place to secure Reiss' release. Opposition politicians have called on the French government to offer a clearer explanation of the events.