Iranian British Council worker sentenced to 10 years for spying: Judiciary

US sanctions on Iran are hampering the implementation of the project

Iran said on Monday it had sentenced an Iranian woman to 10 years prison for spying for Britain, amid rising tension between the Islamic Republic and some Western countries over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The national, who has not been identified, worked for the British Council and was in charge of the Iran desk. Funding from the UK's foreign office makes up about 15 percent of its overall income.

Former Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje'i declared in November 2018 that a state employee charged with spying on the Iranian Foreign Ministry was found guilty and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment.

A London-based British-Council employee was arrested in Iran in 2018 during a trip to visit relatives.

Mohsen Omrani said his cousin had been offered the chance to go back to the United Kingdom, if she spied on her employers, the British Council, during an interrogation by the regime's authorities around eight months ago.

In a statement Monday, the British Council said it had seen reports of the sentencing but said "we have not been able to confirm that this is our colleague". That is a vague charge often used by Iran's intelligence services against activists, journalists, and other Iranians arrested for political reasons.

Esmaili said that during her confession, the suspect described how she had been recruited and provided information on "the instructions that the English security agency had given" her.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, was jailed in July 2016, three months after her initial arrest at Tehran airport as she was heading back to Britain.

The British Council said it does not have offices or representatives in Iran and it does not do any work in Iran.

The arrest of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said past year there had been "infiltration" of Western agents in the country.

Iran offers Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner swap.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has been separated from his daughter, Gabriella, who was with her mother when she was detained in Iran and has since remained in the country with her grandparents.

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