British Council worker temporarily freed from Iranian jail

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Aras Amiri was freed in the early stages of her 10-year sentence amid coronavirus fears

April 9, 2020

April 9, 2020

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An Iranian working for Britain’s cultural outreach agency is understood to have been temporarily released from Evin jail where she was serving a ten-year term after being accused of espionage.

Supporters of the 33-year-old Iranian posted her picture on social media after leaving the Tehran prison. Thousands of prisoners have been released by the government as it tries to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Ms Amiri, who is based in the UK where she works for the British Council as an arts officer, was detained in 2018 during a visit to see her ailing grandmother in Iran.

Her fiancé said she was being held as a “hostage” by the Iranian authorities during the broader diplomatic dispute between the Tehran and London.

James Tyson wrote in The Guardian last year that she had been “caught in the middle of two global powers who refuse, or don’t know how, to talk to each other”.

The release of Ms Amiri, an Iranian citizen, appeared to have caught British officials by surprise. A relative of a British dual-national said the Foreign Office was unaware of the development during a conference call on Thursday.

Tehran shut down the Iran office of the British Council a decade ago. The regime has claimed that the British Council was involved in plots against the regime and has warned that Iranians working with the organisation is liable to prosecution.

The council said that Ms Amiri had worked for the organisation for five years in London and had worked on projects that included the translation of Iranian books into English.

“The British Council does not do any work in Iran and Aras did not travel to Iran for work,” its chief executive, Ciaran Devane, said last year.

She was being held with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British aid worker, who was also given temporary freedom from prison after nearly four years in jail. A decision on whether Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release would become permanent was delayed from Wednesday to this weekend, her supporters said.

Updated: April 9, 2020 03:57 PM

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