Iranian British Council worker sentenced to 10 years for ‘spying’

Clay Curtis
May 15, 2019

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of high-ranking judicial officials, Gholamhossein Esmaili said that the individual had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for cooperating with British intelligence services thought conducting cultural projects.

He did not identify the suspect, but said she had been sentenced recently after she "made a straightforward confession".

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was put on trial and is now serving a five-year jail sentence for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.

It was not immediately clear if she was the person sentenced on Monday.

Relatives said Amiri initially was accused of colluding and acting against Iran's national security.

Britain's Foreign Office also released a statement saying it could not confirm more details and was "urgently seeking further information".

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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.

The British Council is a non-political organization that works in education, arts and culture. It is a charity governed by Royal Charter and receives a 15% core funding grant from the United Kingdom government.

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

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

Mr Esmaili said such actions "drew the attention of Iran's security and intelligence services", which led to the woman's arrest previous year. "We will remain in close contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office". "We are dismayed by this reported sentence and are profoundly concerned for Aras' safety and wellbeing, which has been our absolute priority throughout her detention since early 2018".

He did not identify her, but said she was a student in Britain before being recruited by the British Council.

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