The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced an employee of the British Council to ten years in prison on fabricated spying charges, the country’s judiciary confirmed Monday.
The woman, an Iranian citizen, was not identified by authorities. But the Times reports that the woman fits the profile of 33-year-old Aras Amiri, who worked in London and was arrested last year on a trip home to Iran to visit her ailing grandmother.
A spokesman for the Iranian judiciary said on state television that the woman had been “in charge of the Iran desk” of the British Council, a cultural organization that receives a 15% core funding grant from the British government.
Gholamhossein Esmaili charged that the woman had been sentenced after “clearly confessing to assignments with the British intelligence,” after her arrest in 2018.
“The person travelled to the country [Iran] using a false name in order to implement design, plan and lead various projects regarding the implementation of the cultural objectives of the old colonialism [UK] inside Islamic Iran,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said: “We are aware that one of our staff has been detained in Iran while making a private family visit.”
Falsified accusations of spying have been laid by Iranian authorities against a range of activists, journalists, and dual nationals detained in recent years. Abbas Edalat, a British-Iranian academic, was arrested in Tehran in April.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian arrested in April 2016, is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Iran. Mohsen Omrani, the cousin of Aras Amiri, said she is being held in the same section of the prison as Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
A spokeswoman for the British Council told the BBC that Amiri, whose “UK-focused” role involved connecting Iranian writers with translators, traveled to Iran on private business. She said the organization has not been in contact with its employee since her arrest.
[Photo: OLOLUS / YouTube]