Iran envoy says Reiss held for ‘nuclear espionage’

The Iranian ambassador to Paris says the charges against Clotilde Reiss suggest that the French woman was involved in nuclear espionage.

In a recent interview with the French Le Parisien daily, Seyyed Mehdi Mirabutalebi explained issues surrounding the case against a young Frenchwoman who has been in the dock in Iran since post-election violence overtook the country.

“Miss Reiss has studied political geography, is interested in Iran and speaks Farsi, but she is not a French lecturer,” Fars News Agency quoted Mirabutalebi as telling the paper.

“Now three questions come up. Why was a political geography student sent instead of a French language teacher? Why was she sent to Isfahan, exactly where the uranium enrichment facilities are situated?” he asked.

“And why has she chosen a university of technology, where social sciences, which is her field, is not taught?” he added.

Mirabutalebi said Reiss had passed a nine-month training course at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) in 2007 and had written a “scientific article” titled Understating Iranian Policy during the Nuclear Crisis.

According to the Iranian official, the controversy surrounding Reiss gives Tehran enough reason to have “doubts” about her.

In response to a claim by the Le Parisien reporter that Iran has no real evidence to prove her guilt, the envoy said that Reiss had been charged with six main offenses, all of which, she had accepted in court.

“This lady came to Iran with a 30-day visa to teach French, and afterwards asked for it to be extended. When her visa expired for the second time she should have left Iran, but she chose to stay illegally,” Mirabutalebi said in the Tuesday interview.

“On the surface, it seems that she had come to Isfahan to teach French, but the question is why she took part in 15 days of protests in Tehran,” he continued.

When asked whether Reiss was wanted in connection with the charges prior to her arrest, the ambassador’s response was “yes”.

“She was under surveillance from the very first moment she set foot in Iran, otherwise how could we have arrested her.”

Mirabutalebi said although spying charges have been filed against Reiss, the presiding judge would have the final say on the matter.

While pointing out that he did not know when the court would issue a ruling, the envoy said Reiss, who is out on bail, will have to wait to see whether the court decides to “release her, sentence her to prison or set a fine”.

In reaction to Mirabutalebi’s comments, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner categorically refuted claims of Reiss spying on Iran’s nuclear program.
Kouchner said Reiss is not accused of espionage and that she faces charges stemming from her participation in postelection demonstrations.

“What he says is false… Would we be crazy enough to send a young girl (to Iran) as a spy?” Kouchner said, adding that the envoy was not speaking on behalf of the Iranian judiciary.