Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has suggested that Paris should consider a prisoner swap to secure the release of a French teaching assistant accused of spying in Iran.
Clotilde Reiss is on bail and staying in France’s embassy in Tehran pending a verdict in her trial. Amid strained relations between the two countries, Iran’s President said the French people deserve better than their current leaders. He was echoing comments France’s Nicolas Sarkozy made about Iranians after June’s contested election. Interviewed by French TV, Ahmadinejad was asked whether his hints at a prisoner exchange amounted to blackmail. “If we had wanted to blackmail, there are simpler methods than that,” was the reply. While he did not name any prisoners, the highest profile Iranian held in France is Ali Vakili Rad, convicted in 1994 of murdering an ex-prime minister of Iran under the former Shah. Reiss stands accused of aiding an alleged Western plot after Iran’s disputed presidential poll. With her fate uncertain, French press reports say Paris is studying the possibility of freeing the Iranian prisoner.