Iranian convicted of killing Iran's ex-PM released from French prison

08:09, May 19, 2010      

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An Iranian imprisoned for life for assassinating Iran's last prime minister under its ousted shah was released Tuesday and will be permitted to return home.

Ali Vakili Rad, convicted of the 1991 assassination of former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, left a prison outside Paris hours after a court approved his release.

Vakili Rad left the Poissy prison in Yveline, outside of Paris, headed toward Paris' Orly Airport in a police convoy that included heavily armed officers, the AFP reported.

"We are perhaps going to the airport," Sorin Margulis, Vakili Rad's lawyer, told the AFP.

Earlier Tuesday, a French tribunal granted Vakili Rad "a conditional release" following a deportation decree signed Monday by Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux.

Vakili Rad, who had been held in France for about 16 years, will return to Iran two days after the release of a French national by Iranian authorities.

Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old academic who was convicted of spying by Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison, returned home Sunday.

Reiss' sentence was commuted and replaced with a fine of 3 billion rials (300,000 U.S. dollars). She had been arrested July 1 in postelection violence in Iran.

Vakili Rad is regarded as a hero by Iran's leaders for killing someone they considered a counterrevolutionary.

"To see him in Iran after years, we are pleased," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said at his weekly news conference, held just before the announcement from Paris.

Speculation prevailed that Iran and France made some secret agreements on prisoner swaps, but both governments said there was "no connection" between the cases.

Bakhtiar, who fled to France when the shah was toppled in the 1979 Islamic revolution, was killed in 1991, at the age of 76, in his home in the western Paris suburb of Suresnes.

Vakili Rad was convicted in 1994 of assassinating Bakhtiar and sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors alleged during Vakili Rad's trial that Iran was behind the assassination. Two other Iranians were convicted for playing logistical roles in the killing while two other alleged killers were never caught.



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