Britain concerned at reports Iran jailed woman for spying for UK

Britain concerned at reports Iran jailed woman for spying for UK

Iran sentenced an Iranian British Council worker to 10 years in jail for "spying", local media reported on Monday.

The convict was in charge of the "Iran Desk" at the British Council in Iran, the Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaili was quoted as saying on Monday.

Esmaili did not identify the suspect by name or gender.

Ms Amiri's case bears similarities to that of British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in the country since 2016. She is serving a five-year sentence for spying - a charge she denied. The friend told Reuters that Amiri, 33, was resident in Britain but did not have British nationality.

Last month, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt dismissed the suggestion of a prisoner swap for Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a diplomatic ploy, while her husband said the idea was "almost impossible".

The British Council, a cultural and educational organization with branches around the world, does not have an office in Iran. Funding from the UK's foreign office makes up about 15 percent of its overall income.

The British Council said past year that it was aware that one of its staff had been detained while making a private family visit, without identifying them as Ms Amiri.

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The British Council said it does not have offices or representatives in Iran and it does not do any work in Iran.

A court sentenced the individual to 10 years in prison after the confessions, Esmaili added.

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.

The "safety and wellbeing (of colleagues) remain our first concern".

He did not identify her, but said she was a student in Britain before being recruited by the British Council.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband revealed earlier this year that his wife had been asked to spy on the United Kingdom in exchange for her freedom, which she refused.

"This targeted campaign against foreign and dual nationals sends a threatening message to Iranian expatriates and foreigners interested in working in Iran, that their knowledge and expertise are a liability if they visit the country", HRW's Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whiston said in September 2018.

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