Iran convicts national over "spying" for Britain


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.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the woman had been "in charge of the Iran desk" of the British Council, a cultural organisation, and confessed to "cooperating" with United Kingdom intelligence officials.

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.

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

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"We are very concerned by reports that an Iranian British Council employee has been sentenced to jail on charges of espionage", a spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told AFP.

It was not immediately clear if Amiri was the woman sentenced Monday.

Amiri's cousin, Mohsen Omrani, told the Guardian a year ago she had been accused of colluding and acting against the national security.

The British Council is the UK's cultural outreach programme and has often been a target of the Iranian regime.

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

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, was arrested in April 2016.

The arrest of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said previous year there had been "infiltration" of Western agents in the country.

A London-based British Council employee, Aras Amiri, was arrested in Iran in 2018. We have not been able to confirm any further details at this stage.

"Our colleague's safety and wellbeing remain our first concern, as it has been throughout their detention", he said, according to the Independent.

"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.