Skip to main content

Iran frees British Council employee Aras Amiri

Aras Amiri's lawyer in Tehran said the British Council worker flew out of the Iranian capital on Monday after her travel ban was lifted. 
Aras Amiri.

An Iranian woman jailed on spying charges has returned to the United Kingdom after Iran’s judiciary removed her travel ban, her lawyer and employer said Wednesday. 

The British Council said Aras Amiri was acquitted of all charges against her following a successful appeal by her lawyers to Iran’s Supreme Court. Her lawyer in Tehran, Hojjat Kermani, confirmed to The Associated Press that Amiri flew out of the Iranian capital on Monday after her travel ban was lifted. 

In March 2018, the London-based Iranian citizen traveled to her home country to visit with her ailing grandmother and was arrested seven days later for alleged spying. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2019. 

Iran's judiciary claimed that Amiri had confessed to working with British intelligence. But in an appeal letter to Iran’s chief justice, Amiri said she had been jailed for refusing to go along with Iranian intelligence forces who asked her to spy for them.

“I directly rejected their offer for cooperation and told them that I can only work in my own field and nothing else,” she wrote from prison in June 2019.

Before her arrest, Amiri worked for Britain’s cultural outreach agency fostering artistic exchanges between the UK and Iran.

“We have always refuted the original charges made against Aras,” the British Council said in a statement. “We are very proud of her work in our London office as an arts program officer supporting a greater understanding and appreciation of Iranian culture in the UK.”

A number of dual nationals and foreigners are detained in Iran on widely criticized espionage charges, including British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe; retired British-Iranian engineer Anoosheh Ashoori; and Morad Tahbaz, an environmentalist who holds British, American and Iranian citizenship. 

As part of a November 2020 prisoner swap, British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was released after three years in Iranian custody. 

More from Al-Monitor Staff