Brussels (Brussels Morning) The British Council reported on Wednesday that its Iranian employee, who was arrested in Iran in 2018 on charges of spying, has been released and has now returned to the United Kingdom.
Aras Amiri, a British Council employee in charge of the Iranian desk, was arrested in Tehran in 2018 while visiting her grandmother. In 2019, Iran’s judiciary announced that she had been convicted of spying by a Revolutionary Court and had been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The prosecution argued that Amiri “used contacts with arts and theatre groups to influence and infiltrate Iran” at a cultural level, and the state judiciary claimed she had confessed to cooperating with British intelligence agencies.
On Wednesday, the British Council announced that an appeal, filed by her lawyers at Iran’s Supreme Court, had been successful. Her Iranian attorney, Hojjat Kermani, told Associated Press that the Supreme Court found her initial espionage conviction was “against Shariah”, without elaborating on details.
“We have always refuted the original charges made against Aras”, a British Council statement said. “We are very proud of her work in our London office as an arts programme officer supporting a greater understanding and appreciation of Iranian culture in the U.K.”
Amiri was held in the same prison as the British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and a number of other dual nationality Iranians who had been convicted of spying, in what international rights groups and western governments claim to have been diplomatic hostage-taking.
Amiri’s release comes as Iran is taking part in high-stakes negotiations in Vienna, on resurrecting the Iranian nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That deal, which lapsed in 2018 as then-President Donald Trump withdrew the US from it, provided Tehran with relief from international sanctions in exchange for assuring that its nuclear programme remained strictly civilian in nature.