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French Woman's Trial Resumes In Tehran, No Verdict

Clotilde Reiss
PARIS (Reuters) -- The trial of a French teaching assistant accused of espionage in Iran resumed today but there was no verdict and the court indicated she would be summoned again, France's Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

The case of Clotilde Reiss, 24, has raised tensions between France and Iran, already at odds over Tehran's nuclear program. French President Nicolas Sarkozy says Reiss is innocent and has described her as a pawn in a diplomatic game.

Ahead of today's hearing, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had called on December 22 for a speedy judgment, but the Tehran court did not set a date for Reiss's next court appearance or say when it would deliver its verdict.

Reiss was arrested in Tehran in July, during the turmoil that followed the disputed June 12 presidential election.

Paris has refused an Iranian proposal for a prisoner swap between her and an Iranian man who is serving a life sentence in a French jail for the 1991 assassination of a former Iranian prime minister.

Sarkozy and Kouchner have said it was out of the question to exchange an innocent woman for a convicted murderer and that in any case the French justice system was independent and it was not for the government to meddle in judicial affairs.

Reiss is out of jail on bail and staying at the French Embassy.

Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency quoted her lawyer, Mohammad Ali Mahdavi-Sabet, as saying the court hearing lasted for three hours.

"In this session we have presented some part of her...defense. And I as her lawyer have answered various questions from the judge in order to defend her," he said.

"There is going to be another session for studying her case," the lawyer said, adding the French ambassador and a French diplomat had been outside the courtroom during the session. He did not give a date for the next session.

Reiss is accused of taking part in a Western plot to destabilize Iran after the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. She was arrested as she prepared to leave Iran after a five-month stint working at the University of Isfahan.