Head of the British cultural organization Ciarán Devane said in a statement on Tuesday that Aras Amiri, a 32-year-old employee of the London-based Council, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran more than a year after she was arrested in the country for espionage.
The statement came a day after a senior Iranian judiciary official said an Iranian woman had been convicted after she was found guilty of spying for Britain.
Gholamhossein Esmaili, who serves as the spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, said the unidentified woman had been “cooperating with Britain’s foreign intelligence service,” while working for the Iran Desk at the British Council, Presstv reported.
Esmaili said the woman had made “clear confessions” about her recruitment and “the instructions that the English security agency had given her.”
“The person was involved in contacting theater and art groups to implement cultural infiltration projects,” said the official, adding that the woman had repeatedly traveled to Iran under aliases.
The British council, however, denied espionage charges against Amiri. The agency said it will remain in contact with Britain’s foreign ministry to pursue the issue.
“We firmly refute the accusation levied against her,” Devane said, adding, “The British Council does not do any work in Iran and Aras did not travel to Iran for work.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also reacted to the news of the jail sentences for Amiri, saying late on Monday that he was very “concerned” about the issue. The minister said the UK government will do everything to support the individual who is an Iranian national but also holds a British passport.
Amiri’s arrest comes amid a dispute between Britain and Iran over Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian national sentenced to five years in prison for spying in 2016.
Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe should serve her full sentence under the Iranian legal system.