Iran General NewsDetained academic contacts French envoy in Iran

Detained academic contacts French envoy in Iran

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ImageAFP: A French woman academic detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison was able to contact the French ambassador in a brief telephone call on Wednesday, a diplomatic source told AFP.

By Jay Deshmukh

ImageTEHRAN (AFP) — A French woman academic detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison was able to contact the French ambassador in a brief telephone call on Wednesday, a diplomatic source told AFP.

It was believed to be Clotilde Reiss's first contact with the outside world since she was arrested a week ago at Tehran airport on what French officials say were charges of spying.

"It was a short conversation," the source said of the discussion between French ambassador Bernard Poletti and the 23-year-old Reiss, a lecturer at Isfahan university in central Iran.

"It was a very brief talk which lasted only a few seconds. It was actually a telephonic contact rather than a conversation. The call was made from the prison to the embassy," the source added.

Reiss has been accused of spying for taking part in opposition protests over last month's disputed presidential vote and of sending an email to a friend in Tehran that contained information on the rallies, French officials said.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said earlier that Pelotti was trying to meet Reiss in Evin and that he had discussed her case with his Iranian counterpart Manounchehr Mottaki on Tuesday.

In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed as "pure fantasy" any suggestion that Reiss had been involved in espionage and called for her release.

"Let me say in the clearest and simplest way possible: we demand the release of our compatriot," Sarkozy told a news conference in Paris.

"No one can accept that French nationals are kidnapped and detained on the pretext of espionage. All of this is not a good sign."

Kouchner told French radio France Info that in a long telephone conversation with Mottaki on Tuesday, he had again denied Reiss was involved in spying.

Mottaki had asked him what she had been doing at a demonstration against newly re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where she had been taking photos.

"But she was not in the demonstration," said Kouchner. "She took photos with her mobile phone like hundreds of thousands of other people."

The text messages she had sent out to friends and family had been entirely innocent — along the lines of "Don't worry about me," Kouchner added.

Relations between the West and Iran have been particularly tense since massive street protests erupted over Ahmadinejad's bitterly-disupted re-election on June 12 in the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The regime swiftly cracked down on opponents, rounding up hundreds of leading reformists, political activists, journalists and protestors and accusing foreign powers of inciting the unrest.

Sarkozy has taken a hard line on Iran, saying the election was a "fraud" and questioning Ahmadinejad's legitimacy.

In a television address on Wednesday, the hardline Ahmadinejad insisted his victory was fair, saying: "This was the most beautiful and cleanest election." But he pledged: "The structure of government should change, the changes in the government will be considerable."

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