British Council staffer sentenced to 10 years for 'spying' in Iran

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Yves Le Drian stressed the importance of dialogue with Tehran

French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean Yves Le Drian stressed the importance of dialogue with Tehran More

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.

Esmaili said the sentenced woman was a student in Britain before being recruited by the British Council to run its Iran desk, and was in charge of projects for "cultural infiltration" in Iran.

"She has later received the necessary trainings under the British security service, and after they trusted her, she was in charge of the Iran desk at the British Council and organized different activities", Esmayeeli explained, according to Fars.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, was jailed in July 2016, three months after her initial arrest at Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain.

It was not immediately clear if Amiri was the woman sentenced Monday. Funding from the UK's foreign office makes up about 15 percent of its overall income.

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A London-based British Council employee, Aras Amiri, was arrested in Iran in 2018 during a trip to visit relatives. However we have not been able to confirm that this is our colleague.

A judiciary spokesperson said the woman, who has not been identified, confessed to the crime of spying.

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".

Mohsen Omrani said his cousin had been offered the chance to go back to the United Kingdom, if she spied on her employers, the British Council, during an interrogation by the regime's authorities around eight months ago. Though the British Embassy in Tehran has reopened, the British Council has been closed since 2009.

"We are a non-political organisation committed to people-to-people engagement, and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency", Sir Ciarán added.

The UK is now engaged in a long-running effort to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a dual British-Iranian national serving a five-year sentence in the Islamic Republic for alleged espionage.

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