Published: Wed, May 15, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Tehran Sentences Iranian British Council Worker To 10 Years For 'Spying'

Tehran Sentences Iranian British Council Worker To 10 Years For 'Spying'

Iran's judiciary said an Iranian national has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of spying for Britain, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Monday.

Esmaili did not identify the suspect by name or gender.

He did not specify whether she held British nationality.

Before her arrest, the 33-year-old Amiri had been living in London for 10 years - and had worked on cultural exchanges between Britain and Iran that included cooperation with Iran's Ministry of Culture.

The family of Aras Amiri found out through local media on Monday that the 32-year-old had been sentenced to 10 years in prison, accused of being a United Kingdom spy.

Amiri's cousin said in May 2018 that she had been accused of "acting against national security" - a charge that has been laid by Iranian authorities against a range of activists, journalists and a number of dual citizens and foreign nationals detained in recent years.

Following her arrest in March 2018, Ms Amiri had been allowed out of prison to her family's home, having been initially detained for three months, but was imprisoned again after refusing to become an Iranian spy.

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Esmaili said the woman had been in custody for nearly a year.

The British Council is a cultural and educational organisation that operates overseas, but according to its website it is not "physically present" in Iran.

Iranian authorities shut down the British Council there more than a decade ago for what Esmaili described as "illegal activities".

The British Council said past year that it was aware that one of its staff had been detained while making a private family visit, without identifying them as Ms Amiri.

Iran offers Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner swap.

The body has in the past refuted Iranian claims it had detained the "head of the Iran desk".

"We are a non-political organization committed to people-to-people engagement, and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency", the organization said in a statement. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year term for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government - charges she denied.

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