Iran jails its national for UK spying

Iran has sentenced its national to 10 years in prison for spying for the UK, the state media reported on Monday.

Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on state television that the unnamed individual was "in charge of the Iran desk of the British Council and confessed to co-operating with British intelligence".

The official did not identify the person who was sentenced. But a London-based British Council employee and art student, Aras Amiri, was held in Iran in March 2018, the BBC reported.

Amiri's cousin said in May 2018 that she had been accused of "acting against national security" - a charge that has been laid by Iranian authorities against a range of activists, journalists and a number of dual citizens and foreign nationals detained in recent years.

The UK is currently engaged in a protracted effort to free another woman, the dual British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from prison in Tehran. She was also accused of spying, a charge she has denied.

The British Council -- the UK's international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities -- said last year that it was aware that one of its staff had been detained in Iran while making a private family visit.

On Monday, its Chief Executive Ciaran Devane said: "We have seen reports that an Iranian national, claimed to be an employee of the British Council, has been sentenced. However, we have not been able to confirm that this is our colleague.

"Our colleague's safety and wellbeing remain our first concern as it has been throughout their detention. We are in close contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."

The British Council said that the employee detained last year was not head of "the Iran desk", but someone who "worked in the UK in a junior role to support and showcase the Iranian contemporary art scene to UK audiences".

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

"We are a non-political organisation committed to people-to-people engagement and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency," Ciaran added.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "The British Embassy officials in Tehran are in touch with the Iranian government to seek further information."