A British resident faces ten years in jail in Iran after losing her final appeal against spying charges.
Aras Amiri, 34, an Iranian citizen with permanent residency in the UK, was arrested in March last year as she visited her sick grandmother in the capital Tehran.
She was sentenced to ten years’ prison in May after being accused of spying for the British Council, for whom she worked promoting Iranian culture in Britain. Miss Amiri appealed against the sentence in a letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary.
But the Supreme Court ruled over the weekend to uphold her conviction – for ‘cultural infiltration by the British intelligence services in Iranian internal affairs’ – and her prison term.
Aras Amiri, 34, an Iranian citizen with permanent residency in the UK, was arrested in March last year as she visited her sick grandmother in the capital Tehran
Miss Amiri, a Kingston University student who lived in London for more than a decade, claimed in her letter that she was arrested because she refused to cooperate with Iranian intelligence officials who wanted her to spy for them in Britain.
She said: ‘I directly rejected their offer for cooperation and told them that I can only work in my own field and nothing else.’
The Iranian office of the British Council – which promotes our cultural, scientific and educational interests abroad and promotes international cooperation – was closed by the authorities in 2009, in protest at the launch of the BBC Persian Service.
Miss Amiri is being held in Evin prison in the capital, where British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is also serving a sentence for alleged espionage.
The chief executive of the British Council, Sir Ciarán Devane, responded to Miss Amiri’s upheld jail term with ‘dismay’.
The Supreme Court upheld Miss Amiri's conviction and her ten year sentence
He told the London Evening Standard: ‘Further to reports, we would like to express our deep disappointment and dismay that our colleague Aras Amiri has had her appeal against her ten-year sentence rejected by the Iranian authorities.
‘We remain extremely concerned for Aras’s safety and well-being and continue to refute the accusation levied against her.’
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, said of her sentence: ‘It is outrageous.
The UK needs to step up and protect citizens. Nazanin and others are being held as bargaining chips.’
The Foreign Office has advised all British-Iranian nationals against travelling to Iran.
The arrest of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last year there had been ‘infiltration’ of Western agents in the country.