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London-based British Council employee Aras Amiri has received a 10-year prison sentence in Iran. (Supplied/Center for Human Rights in Iran)
London-based British Council employee Aras Amiri has received a 10-year prison sentence in Iran. (Supplied/Center for Human Rights in Iran)

‘Bargaining chips’

Woman who traveled from U.K. to visit family in Iran sentenced to 10 years for ‘spying’

By WITW Staff on May 20, 2019

An Iranian woman working in London for the British Council has reportedly been sentenced in Iran to ten years in prison for spying.

Aras Amiri had gone to Iran to visit her grandmother in March 2018 when she was detained and later charged with “acting against national security.” A spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary said on Monday that an unnamed Iranian woman, presumably Amiri, had been convicted of spying after confessing to using her contacts in art and theater to “influence and infiltrate” Iran. The British Council, where Amiri works, is an organization focused on international cultural relations.

Amiri’s cousin, Mohsen Omrani, had confirmed reports of the arrest and told the BBC that she was being held in the same prison as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe — a British aid worker who has been imprisoned in Iran since 2016 after she was arrested for allegedly plotting to “overthrow the regime” while visiting her parents.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has said that the two women have become friends after meeting in prison. Both arrests, Ratcliffes claims, are the result of an ongoing dispute between the British and Iranian governments over a 40-year-old £400 million (US$519 million) arms debt that Britain has spent decades refusing to pay.

“It is outrageous,” said Radcliffe. “The U.K. needs to step up and protect citizens. Nazanin and others are being held as bargaining chips.”

The chief executive of the British Council, Sir Ciarán Devane, has condemned the charges against Amiri as absurd, noting that the organization does not even do work in Iran and that Amiri had been working for the group for five years “supporting translations of Iranian books into English.” He and the rest of the British Council, he added, were deeply “dismayed” and “profoundly concerned for Aras’ safety and wellbeing.”

Read the full story at The Telegraph.

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