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Updated: May 18, 2010 14:48 IST

France releases convicted Iranian assassin

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Iranian engineer Majid Kakavand arrives at the courtroom before the verdict at the end of his trial in Paris> File photo: AP.
Iranian engineer Majid Kakavand arrives at the courtroom before the verdict at the end of his trial in Paris> File photo: AP.

The convicted killer of former Iranian prime minister Shapour Bakhtiar has been released from a French prison and will return home to Iran, the office of the Paris public prosecutor announced on Tuesday.

The announcement came two days after the return to France of Clotilde Reiss, a university lecturer who was convicted of espionage in Iran and prevented from leaving the country for more than 10 months.

Ali Vakili Rad was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1994 for his part in the assassination of Bakhtiar in his home outside Paris. His sentence carried with it a minimum term of 18 years.

The minimum term was eventually reduced to end on July 2, 1999.

His request to be released was approved on January 22, 2010. On Monday, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux signed a decree ordering Vakili Rad’s expulsion to Iran.

The timing of the decision appears to support charges that it was part of a deal for the permission by Iranian authorities to allow Ms. Reiss to leave Tehran and return to France.

Ms. Reiss was arrested on July 1, 2009, at Tehran airport as she was trying to return to France. She was tried and convicted for e—mailing photographs of the riots that shook the country after the controversial re—election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

She was released on Sunday and flown back to France, after having a potential five—year prison sentence reduced to a fine.

French authorities have strenuously denied that her release was in exchange for Vakili Rad’s liberation and France’s refusal to extradite Iranian national Majid Kakavand to the US for alleged export of illegal electronic devices to Iran.

Kakavand was instead sent back earlier this month to Iran after a one—year detention in France.

French officials have also refuted claims by a former deputy director of the foreign intelligence service DGSE that Ms. Reiss was, in fact, a spy.

Maurice Dufresse said on Sunday on LCI television that she had been a registered agent of the DGSE and had provided France with information about Iranian internal politics and its nuclear programme.

“She worked for France to gather information on internal politics and also on nuclear proliferation,” he said. “She is registered with the DGSE.” The DGSE and the French Foreign Ministry have rejected those claims.

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