Iranian British Council Worker Sentenced to 10 Years for 'Spying', Says Judiciary

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

The national, who was in charge of the Iran desk at the British Council, was sentenced to prison after she confessed that she was spying for Britain, Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli told a press conference.

Mr Esmaili did not identify the woman.

In March 2018, a London-based British council employee named Aras Amiri was arrested in Iran while visiting her ailing grandmother in her home country.

Amiri's cousin said in May 2018 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.

Iran is already holding British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is in jail in Tehran for alleged sedition.

It was not immediately clear if Amiri was the woman sentenced Monday.

She has frequently denied the sedition charge levelled against her, insisting she was in the country on a family visit with her daughter.

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

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Arrests of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since the Islamic Republic's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said previous year there had been "infiltration" by Western agents in the country.

The British Council is the UK's cultural outreach programme and has often been a target of the Iranian regime.

It does not have offices or representatives in Iran and does not work in Iran.

Ms Amiri has a fiancé based in the United Kingdom, who has been unable to get a visa to visit her in Iran since her arrest. "We are in close contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office", the British Council said. However we have not been able to confirm that this is our colleague.

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

The spokesman added that she was "an Iranian student who wanted to live and work in the UK", was hired by the British Council and "repeatedly travelled to Iran under aliases. and made connections with artistic and theatre groups".

The British Foreign Office said it was "very concerned" at the reports. Though the British Embassy in Tehran has reopened, the British Council has been closed since 2009.

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