The trial of a French lecturer who was arrested after Iran’s disputed presidential election in June has resumed after reports that she could be set free at the hearing.
“Clotilde Reiss appeared this morning before the judge for a hearing,” Bernard Valero, a spokesman from the French foreign ministry, said on Tuesday.
“The judge had a discussion with our compatriot and did not rule out summoning her for a new hearing.”
Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi, the Iranian prosecutor presiding over her trial, had earlier said that the judge “will decide whether today’s session was her last or not.”
However, there was no word from Iranian officials on Reiss’s fate.
Reiss, who is bail and staying at the French embassy in Iran, is accused of taking part in a Western plot to destabilise the Iranian government after the June 12 vote in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, was re-elected.
Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, France had demanded formal guarantees from Iran that it would not jail Reiss but allow her to return to the embassy while she awaited a verdict.
But Iran offered no such guarantees and said the French demands were unjustified.
Fars, an Iranian news agency, quoted Reiss as admitting to “mistakes” and asking for clemency, but French authorities have rejected the charges against her as baseless.
Meanwhile, the trials of hundreds of others arrested were also supposed to resume, including the case of Saeed Leylaz, an Iranian political commentator, but there were no reports released in regards to the other cases.
Leylaz was arrested several days after he said that the re-election of Ahmadinejad as president would isolate Iran.
If found guilty, the defendants could face lengthy prison sentences.
Patrice De Beer, a political analyst and a former editor of Le Monde, said that Reiss’s arrest and trial has made the front pages of French newspapers in recent weeks.
“French president Nicolas Sarkozy took charge personally of all efforts to have her released – he called on Syrian president [Bashar] al-Assad to intervene,” he said.
“Those negotiations ended with her being allowed to be released on bail. But the fact that she is going on trial and that the Iranian authorities have not accepted to guarantee that she will not be [sent] to jail have created a new tension.”
Reiss was preparing to fly home after completing a six-month teaching and research assignment at the University of Isfahan in central Iran when she witnessed the mass protests in June, took pictures and emailed them to friends.
De Beer said that many French people considered Reiss’s arrest and trial to be politically motivated.
“Think about this 24-year-old woman – she is just out of university, she sees something that is rocking Iran and which is fascinating all Iranians,” he said.
“She takes a few pictures, she looks around and witnesses what happens and she sends the pictures through her cellphone. Any youngster would do that, in any country, about anything that is very important.
“It looks to the French public and the French government like hostage taking in retaliation for the fact that the French government has a tough attitude on the Iranian nuclear problem.”