Iran jails its national for United Kingdom spying


An Iranian national has been jailed for 10 years for spying for the UK.

Gholamhossein Esmaili, a judiciary spokesman, said on state television that the woman worked for the British Council cultural agency and was cooperating with Britain's foreign intelligence service, but did not identify her. That is a vague charge often used by Iran's intelligence services against activists, journalists, and other Iranians arrested for political reasons.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, was jailed in July 2016, three months after her initial arrest at Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain.

He refused to identify the person, but said she was a student who had been looking for gaining a residence permit and employment opportunity in Britain and was hired by the British Council after a long process. He said the woman had been in custody for nearly a year.

On Monday, its Chief Executive Ciaran Devane said "We have seen reports that an Iranian national, claimed to be an employee of the British Council, has been sentenced".

The British Council said a year ago that it was aware that one of its staff had been detained while making a private family visit, without identifying them as Ms Amiri. The council said she had traveled to Iran on a private trip to visit family, and not for work.

More news: Lankan software engineer, under Indian surveillance, key in Easter attack
More news: UAE Says 3 Western Countries Part of Probe into Attack on Ships
More news: North Korea demands release of coal ship seized by U.S.

"Iran's security apparatus has apparently made the despicable decision to use these individuals as bargaining chips to resolve diplomatic disputes", she added.

Ms Amiri is being held Tehran's notorious Evin Prison, where Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is also an inmate.

The British Council said that the employee detained past year was not head of "the Iran desk", but someone who "worked in the United Kingdom in a junior role to support and showcase the Iranian contemporary art scene to United Kingdom audiences".

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

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said "The British Embassy officials in Tehran are in touch with the Iranian government to seek further information".