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British Council staffer returns to UK after Iran ordeal

By AFP - Jan 12,2022 - Last updated at Jan 12,2022

LONDON — The British Council on Wednesday said one of its staff members had returned to the UK after being cleared on appeal of a 10-year jail sentence for “cultural infiltration” in Iran.

“British Council employee and Iranian citizen Aras Amiri has been acquitted by the supreme court in Iran of all charges previously made against her, following a successful appeal lodged by her lawyer,” the cultural organisation said in a statement.

“She has been freed from detention and has returned to the United Kingdom,” it added, calling her ordeal “a long and difficult period”.

The British Council, which promotes culture and language in more than 100 countries across the world, has not had staff or offices in Iran since 2009.

The Iranian government in 2019 announced a ban on all collaboration with the organisation.

Amiri, who lives in the UK, was detained in 2018 while on a trip to visit relatives in Iran. In May 2019, she was jailed for 10 years.

The prime minister at the time, Theresa May, called the sentence “utterly shocking”.

The UK government has condemned the detention of several Iranians with dual UK nationality or based in the UK as hostage-taking aimed at pressuring the West.

Richard Ratcliffe has drawn parallels between Amiri’s case and that of his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been detained in Iran since 2016.

He wrote in The Guardian newspaper in 2019 that both were arrested while on holiday visiting family, targeted for their links to the UK, and had their jobs in London “turned into cynical espionage claims”.

The pair had been cellmates in Evin prison, he added.

Richard Ratcliffe last year held a three-week hunger strike outside the UK foreign ministry to encourage the government to reach a deal for her release.

His wife was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, then given another year’s imprisonment in April this year for taking part in a rally outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2009.

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