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Iran releases British Council employee allows her return to UK

Police take security measures after gunmen opened fire at Iran’s parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in the capital Tehran, Iran on June 7, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]
Iranian police in Tehran, Iran on June 7, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

Aras Amiri, an Iranian employee of the British Council, has arrived back in the United Kingdom after an Iranian court lifted her travel ban over her spying sentence, the UK resident's lawyer and the Council said today.

The Iranian judiciary did not immediately comment, but her lawyer in Tehran, Hojjat Kermani, told Reuters that Amiri had left the Iranian capital on Monday.

"The Supreme Court had acquitted her of espionage charges…Then our appeal for lifting her travel ban was accepted and she was able to leave Iran," Kermani said.

Amiri was arrested in March 2018 in Tehran while visiting her family and a year later an Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced her to ten years in prison on a conviction for spying. Amiri has repeatedly denied the charge.

Amnesty International United Kingdom Board Director Daren Nair said in April 2020 that Iran had "temporarily released Amiri on furlough". Kermani said Amiri had been freed from prison within the past few months.

READ: Time 'running out' to restore Iran nuclear deal, UK warns

Due to tensions with Western powers over Iran's nuclear programme, the Islamic Republic in 2019 banned cooperation with the British Council and warned that such activity would result in prosecution.

"We are very pleased to confirm that 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 Council said in a statement.

In recent years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners mostly on espionage and security-related charges.

Rights groups have accused Iran of trying to extract concessions from other countries through such arrests, while Western powers have long demanded that Iran release their citizens, who they say are political prisoners.

Tehran, which does not recognise dual nationality, says such arrests are based on its criminal code and denies holding people for political reasons.

Iran, which has repeatedly said it is ready for a prisoner exchange, is in talks to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. In 2018 then-US President Donald Trump exited the deal and reimposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran.

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