British Council Employee Aras Amiri Jailed for Refusing to Spy, Says Cousin
Amiri Was Forced to Choose Lawyer from Court-Issued List
The UK-based British Council employee Aras Amiri was jailed in Iran for refusing to spy for the country’s Intelligence Ministry, her cousin, Mohsen Omrani, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 14, 2019.
“They made a proposal to Aras to become an agent for the Islamic Republic in the UK and give them information about the British Council,” he said.
“Aras refused and said she is not the type for that kind of work,” he added. “She told them everything she knew about her work. They made threats against her and eventually took her into custody.”
Omrani also told CHRI Amiri was forced to choose a lawyer from a list approved by the chief justice.
He added: “The family kept quiet in dealing with the media hoping that talking to the authorities would lead to her release. But instead they raised the charges and gave her 10 years in prison.”
According to Omrani, who lives in the United States, Amiri’s lawyer only became aware of her sentence through news reports. To date he has still not received a copy of the verdict.
Amiri is currently being held in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison.
An Iranian-born UK resident who worked for the British Council, Amiri was initially arrested in Tehran in March 2018 while visiting her ailing grandmother.
The 33-year-old graduate student of the UK’s Kensington College of Business was initially held in Ward 209 of Evin Prison in Tehran, controlled by the Intelligence Ministry, before being released on bail in late May 2018.
She was re-arrested sometime between August 23 and September 22, 2018.
Without mentioning Amiri by name, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili told reporters on May 13, 2019, that an Iranian student in London who “cooperated” with the UK’s intelligence service through the British Council’s cultural activities in Tehran had been sentenced based on her own “confessions.”
“An Iranian individual in charge of the Iran desk at an English cultural organization known as the British Council cooperated with the British secret service to design and implement projects to adulterate and penetrate our culture,” Esmaili said.
Iran’s security establishment has a documented history of extracting forced false “confessions” under actual or the threat of torture as well as imprisoning Iranian nationals with foreign ties and using them as negotiating chips with other nations.
Amiri’s trial was held in “two or three sessions” in February and March 2019 at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran presided by Judge Abolqasem Salavati.
In an undated letter from Evin Prison, Iranian-born Swedish citizen and scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, jailed in Tehran since 2016, wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
His wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read a confession that was broadcast on state TV, and that his interrogators threatened him at the time that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement.
Formerly Texas-based physicist Omid Kokabee was also imprisoned in Iran for over five years for similarly refusing to conduct military research for Iran, he said.
At least 11 Iranian dual as well as foreign nationals were known to be imprisoned in Iran as of May 2019 including Iranian-UK citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Iranian-American citizen Siamak Namazi, American scholar Xiyue Wang, and US Navy veteran Michael White.