See update below.
Today Clotilde Reiss has luckily been allowed to leave Iran. The 24-year-old, as has widely been reported, ‘language teacher’ had been arrested on July 1, 2009 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport when trying to leave the country after a 5-month stay at Esfahan University as guest assistant teacher. She appeared on August 8 in one of the infamous show trials after post-election unrest in the country and ‘confessed’ that she had attended anti-government demonstrations and had sent a respective report to the French Embassy in Tehran. Since August 16 Reiss was conditionally released from the notorious Evin prison after a bail of 300 million toman (about $300,000) had been posted. She was accommodated at the French Embassy.
In the meantime, her Iranian lawyer Mohammad Ali Mahdavi Sabet has informed the media that there has been a court verdict which is not an acquittal but allows her to leave the country.
According to Sabet, Reiss was sentenced to two terms of five years in prison, but the double sentence was immediately commuted to fines “due to the personal circumstances” of Reiss by “a decision for leniency” of the authorities, Mahdavi Sabet said. “I will go to the court to get her passport. The story is over.”
Clotilde Reiss has definitely been another hostage of the regime in Tehran. When her upcoming departure to France was announced today this was only ten days after a French court had ordered the release of the Iranian engineer Majid Kakavand who was sought by the United States on arms export violations and who had been arrested in France in March 2009. Kakavand has left France in the meantime for Tehran.
Anyway, Clotilde might not be as naïve and innocent as she has been described in the West. It is probably not by chance alone that her father Rémi Reiss is a nuclear engineer. Statements by Iranian news agencies do unfortunately not deserve special credibility but when Reiss ‘confessed’ in her trial that
“My father works for the French Atomic Energy Commission. I did an internship there and for that I wrote a report on Iran’s policy on nuclear energy,”
this was notoriously underreported in western mainstream media. That does not necessarily mean anything, but often things are interconnected. If it was a false testimony, why hasn’t it been disclaimed in the meantime? Clotilde had studied political sciences in Lille, not languages. She has got a master’s degree on a thesis on the educational system in Iran. About 15 kilometers east of Esfahan University, which is known for its very conservative administration and staff, is the country’s uranium conversion facility located.
There is actually little hope that the true circumstances of her shrouded arrest and release will be elucidated after the end of her 11-month nightmare. I want to wish her good luck anyway.
Update May 18, 2010. As The Telegraph reported yesterday, Pierre Siramy, a former high-ranking member of France’s external intelligence service DGSE, has confirmed that Reiss has been working for the French intelligence service. As its representative’s contact, “she provided reports on domestic politics in the run up to last July’s presidential elections and on a nuclear site under construction next to the central town of Isfahan where she was an assistant university teacher,” said Mr. Siramy. Siramy’s claims were immediately denied by anonymous officials of the DGSE.