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IRAN: British Council worker jailed for spying for UK

15 May 2019

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

Esmaili added that the suspect, who had allegedly been tasked with drawing up and managing cultural "infiltration" projects, had been arrested by Iranian intelligence and security agencies "more than a year ago".

Former Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje'i declared in November 2018 that a state employee charged with spying on the Iranian Foreign Ministry was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.

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Monday's announcement prompted an immediate response from London, with the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) saying it was "very concerned" by the Iranian move.

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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".

Iran does not recognise dual nationality.

"An Iranian citizen in charge of the Iran desk at the".

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.

Iranian authorities shut down the British Council there more than a decade ago for what Esmaili described as "illegal activities".

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Mr Esmaili said such actions "drew the attention of Iran's security and intelligence services", which led to the woman's arrest past year.

Iran is already holding British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is in jail in Tehran for alleged sedition. The UK-registered charity said it has no offices or representatives in the country.

A London-based British Council employee, Aras Amiri, was arrested in Iran in 2018 during a trip to visit relatives.

"We have not been able to confirm any further details at this stage and are urgently seeking further information", an FCO spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

"Our colleague's safety and wellbeing remain our first concern, as it has been throughout their detention".

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"We are a non-political organization committed to people-to-people engagement, and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency", the organization said in a statement. Though the British Embassy in Tehran has reopened, the British Council has been closed since 2009.

IRAN: British Council worker jailed for spying for UK