France - Iran

France releases killer of former Iranian PM

Reuters

A French court has released an Iranian agent who was jailed for the murder of an exiled prime minister. The move comes amid controversy over whether the decision was tied to Iran's release of the young French academic Clotilde Reiss.

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Ali Vakili Rad had completed a life sentence for stabbing and strangling to death the Shah's last prime minister, Shapour Bakhtiar, at his home outside Paris in August 1991. He became eligible for parole last year.

A Paris sentencing court ruled in favour of parole for Vakili Rad, the Paris prosecutor's office said, one day after the French interior minister signed a deportation order for the Iranian national.

Vakili Rad was expected to fly to Tehran later in the day, his lawyer Sorin Margulis said.

The lawyer insisted the decision was not part of a secret deal with Tehran to secure the release of 24-year-old Reiss, who was tried in Tehran on spying charges.

"This must not be seen as an exchange," Margulis told reporters. "The Reiss affair did nothing but complicate and delay my client's release."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner insisted that there had been no "pay-off" and no "horse-trading" between Paris and Tehran ahead of Reiss' return home on Sunday at the end of a 10-month ordeal.

Opposition Socialists however suggested that France had secured Reiss' release in exchange for sending Vakili Rad home along with a second man, engineer Majid Kakavand, who was wanted in the United States for trial.

Vakili Rad was convicted in 1994 of murdering 76-year-old Bakhtiar at his home on 6 August, 1991. He served his jail term in Poissy, west of Paris.

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