French student is a spy, Iran says

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The Independent Online

France demanded yesterday the immediate release of a 23-year-old student accused by Iran of spying after she took pictures of a street demonstration with her mobile phone.

President Nicolas Sarkozy dismissed the accusations against Clotilde Reiss, from Lille, who was arrested last week as she was about to board a flight leaving Iran.

"These accusations of spying are the height of fantasy and should never have been brought," M. Sarkozy said. "That a French citizen should be kidnapped and held on a so-called charge of espionage is wholly unacceptable." Mlle Reiss, who had been teaching French in Isfahan for five months, was arrested last Wednesday at Tehran airport as she was making her way back to France, via Beirut.

Iranian authorities have brought no formal charges against her. She is believed to be accused of spying after emailing a photograph of a demonstration in Isfahan which followed the disputed Iranian election last month.

The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, said: "That is not espionage and cannot be so. The accusation is absurd. She was an ordinary young student who was doing her job, who witnessed protests like millions of Iranians." The arrest is the first sign that Iran is ready to extend its attacks on alleged foreign interference beyond Britain. Paris asked yesterday for a united protest by the EU.

Dr Kouchner said France wanted Mlle Reiss's case to be resolved rapidly and did not intend to "make a big issue between two countries out of this".

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