PARIS – The French academic who is part of a mass trial in Iran has been freed from prison on bail and turned over to the French embassy in good health, French leaders said, urging that charges against her be dropped.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said “that nothing can justify” the case against Clotilde Reiss, 24, and an embassy employee, who are accused of fanning a revolt aimed at bringing down Iran’s Islamic rulers.
The president spoke with Reiss as soon as she left Tehran’s Evin prison and reported that she was in good health and spirits, his office said in a statement.
Sarkozy “noted the dignity and courage with which Clotilde Reiss has faced this challenge,” the statement said.
Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner later said on the iTele TV station that bail was paid but that the sum was “not enormous.”
While she stays at the embasssy, Reiss will prepare her defence “to make her innocence known,” Kouchner said in a statement. Like Sarkozy, he reiterated that the charges against her and the French-Iranian embassy employee, Nazak Afshar, are “unfounded.”
Reiss was arrested July 1 and jailed after attending a postelection demonstration at the end of a five-month teaching job in the city of Isfahan. Reiss and Afshar went on trial Aug. 8 alongside more than 100 others. All were charged with fomenting revolt following Iran’s disputed presidential elections.
Sarkozy credited the European Union and Syria for helping obtain Reiss’ release, echoing language he used when Afshar was let out of prison on Aug. 11. She also still faces charges.
He thanked them for “the solidarity and support they have brought us and will continue to bring until our two compatriots have recovered their full freedom.”
Since taking office in 2007, Sarkozy has worked to bolster ties with Damascus, which is a strong ally of Tehran and is trying to emerge from its diplomatic isolation in the West.
Sarkozy has backed a go-between role for Damascus to bring across Western demands on Tehran. He met with President Bashar Assad in January as part of an international bid at the time to stop an Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, and Assad was a guest of honour at France’s July 2008 Bastille Day parade.
The weekend edition of the French daily Le Monde, quoting Syrian sources, said that Assad could travel shortly to Tehran to meet the Iranian president but would use the visit to use his influence to help gain full freedom for the French women.
Obtaining freedom for Reiss has become a cause celebre in France, and authorities have worked hard to obtain her release.
Reiss and Afshar both apologized before the court for attending at least one demonstration, saying she did so because she was curious. She has been charged with acting against national security by joining protests, gathering information, taking photos and sending them abroad during postelection unrest in Iran.