A Paris court is set to rule on Tuesday whether to free an Iranian agent sentenced to life in prison for the 1991 assassination of a former Iranian prime minister outside Paris.
Ali Vakili Rad was convicted in 1994 for killing Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last Iranian premier under Shah Reza Pahlavi, who was deposed in the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Bakhtiar and an aide were strangled and stabbed at Bakhtiar’s home in the western Paris suburb of Suresnes. Prosecutors said the killing was a plot by Iran’s clerical regime.
Vakili Rad is serving a life sentence with no possibly of parole until July 2009.
Iran hints at a possible exchange
His parole request comes at a time when France is seeking the release of Clotilde Reiss, a 24-year-old French academic who was detained in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election. Iranian prosecutors have accused Reiss of spying during a mass trial against post-election protesters and supporters, charges Reiss has denied.
In an interview with a French TV station in September, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hinted at a prisoner exchange. “Do you know that there are some Iranians who have been in prison in France for years?" he asked. “These are prisoners too, they also have families.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has dismissed reports of a prisoner exchange, describing any talk of such an exchange as "blackmail."