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Tehran offered to pay jailed Iranian woman to spy on UK

15 May 2019

Iran sentenced an Iranian British Council worker to 10 years in jail for "spying", local media reported on Monday.

The national, who was in charge of the Iran desk at the British Council, was sentenced to prison after she confessed that she was spying for Britain, Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmayeeli told a press conference.

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.

He said the suspect was sentenced after "clearly confessing to assignments with the British intelligence".

"She has later received the necessary trainings under the British security service, and after they trusted her, she was in charge of the Iran desk at the British Council and organized different activities", Esmayeeli explained, according to Fars.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, was arrested in April 2016.

It was not immediately clear if she was the person whose sentencing was announced on Monday. Funding from the UK's foreign office makes up about 15 percent of its overall income.

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. The council said she had traveled to Iran on a private trip to visit family, and not for work.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it was very concerned by the reports from Iran.

The British Council said a year ago that it was aware that one of its staff had been detained while making a private family visit, without identifying them as Ms Amiri. We have not been able to confirm any further details at this stage.

Iran offers Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner swap. Though the British Embassy in Tehran has reopened, the British Council has been closed since 2009.

"We are a non-political organization committed to people-to-people engagement, and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency", the organization said in a statement.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year term for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government - charges she denied.

Tehran offered to pay jailed Iranian woman to spy on UK