Published: Wed, May 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

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

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

Iran said on May 13 that it has sentenced an Iranian citizen who works for the British Council to 10 years in prison on charges of "spying".

A Foreign Office spokesperson said on Monday: "We are very concerned by reports that an Iranian British Council employee has been sentenced to jail on charges of espionage".

He said the suspect was sentenced after "clearly confessing to assignments with the British intelligence".

Iran has a history of hostility towards the British Council - which is Britain's cultural agency overseas.

An Iranian woman employee of the British Council has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for "spying", the judiciary's news website Mizan Online reported Monday, sparking concern in London.

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

He said the woman had been in custody for nearly a year. "We are in close contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office", the British Council said.

Esmaili said that during her confession, the suspect described how she had been recruited, telling investigators about her instructions from the "English security agency".

The spokesman said the convict has confessions about the process of being recruited by and cooperating with the so-called cultural council of the United Kingdom, trainings he received from the United Kingdom secret service, and his missions to carry out cultural projects in the country.

The charges come amid tensions between Iran and Britain over efforts to free another women - British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was arrested in 2016 as she was leaving Tehran.

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.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has been separated from his daughter, Gabriella, who was with her mother when she was detained in Iran and has since remained in the country with her grandparents.

Iran does not recognize dual nationality.

"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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