LONDON: An Iranian woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran for spying for the UK, officials say.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said the woman had been “in charge of the Iran desk” of the British Council, a cultural organisation. She confessed to “co-operating” with British intelligence, he alleged.
Mr Esmaili did not identify the woman. But a London-based British Council employee and art student, Aras Amiri, was detained in Iran in March 2018.
Ms Amiri’s cousin said last May that she had been accused of “acting against national security” – a charge that has been laid by Iranian authorities against a range of activists, journalists and a number of dual citizens and foreign nationals detained in recent years.
The UK is currently engaged in a protracted effort to free another woman, the dual British-Iranian national, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from prison in Tehran. She is serving a five-year sentence for spying – a charge she denied.
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At a news conference on Monday, Mr Esmaili said the person sentenced to 10 years for spying was “an Iranian female student” who had been “in charge of the Iran desk at the British Council”.
“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.
“The person was involved in contacting theatre and art groups to implement that very issue of cultural infiltration or cultural ambush.”
Mr Esmaili said such actions “drew the attention of Iran’s security and intelligence services”, which led to the woman’s arrest last year.
Files presented at her trial showed she “very quickly and clearly confessed” to passing information to British intelligence agents, he added.
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation working in arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. It is a charity governed by Royal Charter and receives a 15% core funding grant from the UK government.