Iran releases French researcher from prison


Iranian authorities released a French researcher from Tehran’s Evin Prison into the custody of diplomats Sunday, even as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the West for the mass protests that followed his disputed reelection in June.

The Iranian leader also named a hard-line loyalist with strong ties to the Revolutionary Guard and the pro-government Basiji militia to oversee the country’s vast intelligence infrastructure.

The release of Clotilde Reiss, 24, eases strains between the Islamic Republic and Europe. The Persian-speaking scholar was arrested July 1 and charged with undermining Iran’s national security by participating in demonstrations after the June 12 election.


She appeared before television cameras last weekend to confess in court to taking pictures and sending an e-mail to friends and colleagues about unrest in the city of Esfahan.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke briefly with Reiss, who was “healthy and in good spirits,” according to a statement released by his office.

He stressed the role of Syria, a strategic ally of Iran, in helping secure her release.

Reiss must remain in Iran pending a verdict in her case, though Sarkozy called on Iran to drop the charges against her as well as those faced by a French-Iranian dual citizen employed by the French Embassy in Iran.

Iranian hard-liners have repeatedly blamed the West for triggering the postelection unrest.

“You have openly meddled in Iran’s domestic affairs,” Ahmadinejad said of the West in a televised speech Sunday to religious scholars. “With your immature thoughts you believed you could damage the establishment of the Islamic Republic. But the Iranian nation does not care about you. The noise that you are creating in the world is not a sign of your strength but of your weakness and downfall.”

Iranian authorities cracked down on dissent in the face of the protests, but that has failed to quiet government opponents. On Sunday, a group of Iranian clergy released a letter, published on reformist websites, calling for the removal of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei because he had violated the constitution by allowing “flagrant violations of the law” in the postelection period.


Ahmadinejad has already taken de facto control of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry after purging it of officials deemed insufficiently loyal. On Sunday, he nominated Heydar Moslehi, a mid-ranking cleric, to lead the ministry, which controls a vast trove of data on Iranians as well as an extensive human and electronic surveillance infrastructure. Moslehi served as an advisor to Ahmadinejad on clerical affairs and is close to Khamenei.

The Iranian president also proposed two women for Cabinet posts: Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the Health Ministry and Fatemeh Ajorlou to head the nation’s vast Welfare and Social Security Ministry.