|Ali Vakili Rad was sent home to Iran yesterday.|
PARIS — The killer of a former prime minister of Iran who opposed the country’s clerical regime was released from a life sentence and sent home yesterday in what critics called an apparent trade for a young French academic just freed by Iran.
A French government spokesman said he had no knowledge that Ali Vakili Rad was being exchanged for Clotilde Reiss, 24, who was arrested in Iran on July 1 during postelection unrest, accused of spying, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. She returned to France on Sunday after her sentence was commuted.
The minister for European affairs, Pierre Lellouche, and Vakili Rad’s lawyer both denied there had been a trade.
Vakili Rad was convicted in the 1991 assassination of Shahpour Bakhtiar, who served as prime minister under Iran’s shah before the US-backed monarch was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Bakhtiar had moved to a home outside Paris, where he organized opposition to the revolutionary government.
Vakili Rad is regarded as a hero by Iran’s leaders for killing someone they considered a counterrevolutionary. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast welcomed his expected return, telling reporters that, “To see him in Iran after years, we are pleased.’’
Vakili Rad was convicted by a special French terrorism court of assassinating Bakhtiar and his aide Souroush Katibeh and sentenced to life, with the possibility of seeking conditional freedom starting in June 2009. When a prisoner is released before a full sentence is completed, freedom is often conditional, forcing him or her to report to authorities regularly. However, French law allows foreigners with no ties to France to be expelled.
Vakili Rad was convicted three years after the killing of Bakhtiar, 76.