Killer of former Iranian PM freed by France, welcomed in Tehran

Shapur Bakhtiar was born in Iran in 1914 and studied at the Sorbonne in the 1930s. When Generalissimo Franco’s uprising broke out in Spain, he joined the International Brigade to fight the fascists. Later he volunteered for the French army and fought against the Nazi invasion in 1940, and again in the French Resistance.

Returning to Iran after the war, Bakhtiar served as deputy labor minister in the government of Mohammad Mosaddeq, who was overthrown in the 1953 CIA-backed coup which restored the Shah to power. He became a non-violent opponent of the Shah and a strong advocate for a return to democracy. As a result, he was imprisoned repeatedly.

As the Shah’s grip on power crumbled in 1978, in a concession to his opponents he appointed Bakhtiar prime minister. During his 36 days as prime minister, Bakhtiar ordered freedom for all political prisoners, lifted censorship of newspapers, dissolved the SAVAK (the Shah’s brutal secret police) and tried to organize an election for a constituent assembly to determine Iran’s future form of government. However Ayatollah Khomeini branded him a traitor and he was forced into exile in France.

After a failed assassination attempt in 1980, Bakhtiar was stabbed and strangled to death in 1991 by three assassins in his Paris home. Two of the assassins escaped to Iran, but the third, Ali Vakili Rad, was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

Now, after just 16 years, Vakili Rad has been freed. RFI reports:

Controversy continues over whether his release was tied to the return of French national Clotilde Reiss three days earlier.

Vakili Rad was greeted in Tehran late Tuesday by two senior officials. Giving the victory sign, he promised he would speak about his years in prison near Paris…

The French Socialist Party claims that the release is part of a deal involving Reiss.

“To say that nothing had been offered in return” for Reiss’s return to France amounts to “taking us for fools,” said French Socialist Party spokesperson Benoît Hamon.

But both French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Vakili Rad’s lawer have denied charges that an exchange took place.

It’s sad to see Kouchner, of all people, playing along with this charade.

(Hat tip: Potkin Azarmehr)