Clotilde Reiss (born 31 July 1985) is a French student who was accused of being an agent of the French Secret Service. Her arrest in Iran on espionage charges on 1 July 2009 has generated considerable diplomatic controversy. She holds a master's degree from Sciences-Po Lille. At the time of her arrest she was teaching in Isfahan and writing a master's thesis about teaching history and geography in Iranian schools.
Arrest, trial and incarceration
Reiss was arrested at Tehran Airport on 1 July 2009 on her way home to France via Beirut. Iranian authorities alleged that Reiss took photographs of the 2009 Iranian election protests in Isfahan and emailed them to a friend, an act which constituted potential espionage against the Islamic Republic in the eyes of Iranian prosecutors. News of her arrest did not become public for several days, during which time the French government tried unsuccessfully to obtain her release.
When it became clear that Iran intended to put Reiss on trial, officials at the highest level of the French government publicly mobilized on her behalf; French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called the charges against her "absurd" and President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed them as "pure fantasy". She was visited by the ambassador of France in Tehran, Bernard Poletti, on 9 July 2009.
Her trial began in Tehran on August 8, 2009, at the same time as Nazak Afshar, a French-Iranian employee of the French Embassy and Hossein Rassam, an Iranian employee of the British embassy. The Swedish Presidency of the European Union expressed concern over the trial and demanded that the prisoners be released promptly, saying, "The Presidency reiterates that actions against one EU country—citizen or embassy staff—is considered an action against all of EU, and will be treated accordingly." She was released on bail and resided at the French embassy, unable to leave the country pending the final outcome of her trial.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran issued a statement signaling his government's willingness to release Reiss, but clarifying that her release depended on the "approach and behavior adopted by French officials. He declined to elaborate further as to what he expected from the French government, saying only that "they know what to do." France has suggested that Iran is attempting to blackmail Paris into releasing an Iranian agent jailed in France for the 1991 murder of an exiled former prime minister in exchange for Reiss's freedom, a swap that they have vigorously opposed.
Clotilde Reiss was freed on Sunday, May 16, 2010 after active diplomatic talks between Brazilian president, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Another source says it was the efforts of Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu who secured the release of Clotilde Reiss  She arrived in Paris on Sunday the 16 May 2010 at around one o'clock and was received at the Elysee by president Nicolas Sarkozy. In a statement, she thanked her supporters and the president, "who proclaimed my innocence as soon as I was arrested."
Several days before her liberation, on 5 May 2010, a French court refused the extradition of Majid Kakavand, accused by the US of illegally procuring US and European high tech components for Iran, to the US and set him free. The French government denies that the two affairs are linked though an August 2009 cable of the US Embassy in Paris released by Wikileaks confirms that at one point the Iranian government proposed a trade regarding Kakavand and Reiss, which the French government says to have refused.
In a statement published after her release, France denied that she was a spy. But a former assistant director of DGSE said that she did work as a contact for DGSE representative in Tehran, voluntarily providing information on Iran to France on Iranian political climate, arms and nuclear proliferation. The government of France rejected this.
Notes and references
- Westerheide, Carla (2010-05-18). "Clotilde Reiss: Is she a spy?". France 24.
- "Ex-spy detained over tell-all". Straits Times. Jun 9, 2010.
- "Clotilde Reiss une amoureuse de l'Iran emprisonnée à Téhéran" [Reiss a lover of Iran imprisoned in Tehran]. 20 Minutes. July 7, 2010.
- Bremner, Charles (7 July 2009). "France demands release of student Clotilde Reiss by Tehran". London: The Times.
- "Iran : la visite de l’ambassadeur de France à Clotilde Reiss". France Info. July 9, 2010.
- Daragahi, Borzou (9 August 2009). "Trial of protesters seems only to hurt Iran, analysts say". Los Angeles Times.
- "Presidency statement on the post-election trial in Tehran". Swedish Presidency of the EU. 8 August 2009.
- Iran: Reiss release depends on France behavior Press TV December 19, 2009
- Iran trial of French academic to continue Agence France-Presse 23 December 2009
- "Le Monde.fr, Clotilde Reiss sera "acquittée d'ici à dimanche", selon son avocat iranien" (in French).
- "Blog paysages L’ affaire Clotilde Reiss finie?" (in French).
- "Clotide ist frei". blog Plapperstorch. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
- "Sarkozy agradece Lula pela ajuda na libertação de Clotilde Reiss". De Agencia EFE. May 16, 2010.
- [dead link]
- "Reiss: Lula, Wade et Assad remerciés". Le Figaro. 2010-05-16.
- "The great mediator". The Economist. 19 August 2010.
- Davies, Lizzy (16 May 2010). "French academic Clotilde Reiss arrives home after Iran spying conviction". London: The Guardian.
- Bryant, Lisa (May 18, 2010). "Iranian Assassin Heads Home From France". VOA News.
- "Iranian National Heads Home From France". Press TV. May 18, 2010.
- "Supplier: Majid Kakavand". Iran Watch. 2010-04-30.
- "French Government Denies Secret Deal for Release of Teaching Assistant Held by Iran". NewsWeek. May 17, 2010.
- "09PARIS1162, WHY FRANCE CLAIMS SYRIA HELPED CONVINCE IRAN TO". Wikileaks. 2009-08-25.
- [dead link]
- Samuel, Henry (May 17, 2010). "French teacher accused of spying did work for French MI6". London: The Telegraph.
- "French researcher freed by Iran 'helped' DGSE, ex-agent says". Politico. May 17, 2010.
- "Former agent accuses Reiss of helping French intelligence". RFI. May 17, 2010.