Iran has sentenced an Iranian national to 10 years in prison for spying for Britain.

“An Iranian who was in charge of Iran desk in the British Council and was cooperating with Britain’s intelligence agency … was sentenced to 10 years in prison after clear confessions,” Gholamhossein Esmaili, a judiciary spokesman, said on state television.

He did not identify the person who was sentenced. The British Council is Britain’s cultural agency overseas.

The chief executive of the British Council, Sir Ciarán 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 a colleague who was detained last year was not head of “the Iran desk” but instead worked in the UK in a junior role to support and showcase the Iranian contemporary art scene to UK audiences. The British Council does not have offices or representatives in Iran and does not do any work in Iran.

Devane said: “The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities, working in arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. We are a non-political organisation committed to people-to-people engagement, and our staff are not connected to any espionage agency. We believe that when political or diplomatic relations become difficult, cultural exchange helps to maintain open dialogue between people and institutions.”

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said: “We are very concerned by reports that an Iranian British Council employee has been sentenced to jail on charges of espionage. We have not been able to confirm any further details at this stage and are urgently seeking further information.”

Source » theguardian