A British-Iranian dual national who worked for the British Council has been freed from detention in Evin prison and returned to the UK after being acquitted of spying charges.
Aras Amiri’s lawyers had mounted an appeal to the Iranian supreme court that led to her release. She is now at an undisclosed address in the UK.
The 34-year-old, who worked as an artistic affairs officer for the British Council, was visiting relatives in Tehran in 2018 when she was detained. In May 2019 she was sentenced to 10 years in prison on spying charges after she said she refused to become an informant for Iran’s intelligence service. Three months later she lost an appeal.
“We have always refuted [sic] the original charges made against Aras,” the British Council said on Wednesday. “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 UK. This was important work, which reflects the value of cross-border cultural collaboration. Aras’s wellbeing remains our priority. We ask that her privacy is respected as she rebuilds her life in the UK following a long and difficult period.”
In 2019 Amiri wrote to the then-chief justice and now president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, asking him to conduct an investigation into the false charges against her.
She said the reason she had been imprisoned was her refusal to spy for the Iranian intelligence services. “Following my release on bail … the case investigators kept contacting me,” she wrote. “During our third meeting, I turned down their explicit invitation for cooperation and told them I could only work in my specific field, not any other kind of work.
“In light of the unlawful actions in the processing of my case and the insults against myself and my family, I am writing to request Your Excellency to carry out an investigation,” Amiri wrote. The letter was translated by the Centre for Human Rights in Iran.
A number of British-Iranian nationals have been jailed in Iran on similar charges, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was sentenced to an additional year in prison in April 2021, shortly before finishing her five-year sentence. During Amiri’s imprisonment she shared a cell with many other dual nationals.
Talks about the future of the Iran nuclear deal, seen as critical to wider European-Iranian relations, are continuing in Vienna, and some relatives of those still detained are hoping that Amiri’s release is a sign of a slow thaw over the issue of detainees.