Was release of French ‘spy’ part of Iranian-French deal? [updated]

Majid Kakavand

Majid Kakavand

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This blog has closely monitored the case of Clotilde Reiss, a French language assistant who was arrested in Iran last year on accusations of being a ‘nuclear spy’. Despite the obviously nonsensical nature of the allegations, Reiss, a 25-year-old Farsi-speaking French-language assistant at the University of Isfahan, was forced to confess to her ‘crime’ on Iranian television. Last August, however, after spending nearly two months in the notorious Evin prison complex, Reiss was released on bail, on condition that she would remain confined inside the walls of the French embassy compound in Tehran. Then, last weekend, her ten-year prison sentence was suddenly commuted to a fine of $285,000, and she was able to return home to France on Sunday. Why the sudden change of heart on the part of Tehran? It is interesting to note that the French academic’s release was authorized less than 48 hours after a French court refused an American request to extradite Majid Kakavand to the US. IntelNews readers will remember that Kakavand is an Iranian engineer who was detained at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in March 2009, while allegedly attempting to supply the Iranian military with electronic hardware through a front company in Malaysia. And yet last week, Kakavand was released by French authorities, despite the US extradition request, and, like Clotilde Reiss, is now safely back home. There are also rumors that the expected release from a French jail of another Iranian, Ali Vakili Rad, may also be part of secret French-Iranian negotiations. Rad was convicted in 1994 for assassinating Iran’s ex-Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar, who was living in France at the time. Sounds suspiciously like a deal? On Sunday, France’s foreign minister made sure to stress that there has been no “haggling [or] quid pro quo” with the Iranians. Tehran also dismissed rumors of a connection between the release of Kakavand and Reiss.

[UPDATE 18 MAY 2010 12:28 GMT: The release of Ali Vakili Rad has been ordered by a French court, and he is expected to be freed from prison and flown home to Tehran shortly]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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