The family of a UK resident detained in Iran on spying charges have expressed their dismay after a 10-year prison sentence against her was upheld without a hearing.
Aras Amiri, 33, a British Council employee, was jailed in May, almost a year after she was arrested while visiting her ailing grandmother in Tehran.
A news site in Iran reported on Monday that an appeal against her sentence had been rejected.
Her cousin Dr Mohsen Omrani, a medical researcher based in Canada, said the decision was made in her absence and without representation by her lawyers. He told the Evening Standard that he feared Amiri was being used as bargaining chip at a time of growing tension between Iran and the UK and US.
Amiri is being held in Evin prison along with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the Iranian-British citizen serving a five-year sentence for alleged spying.
Amiri’s detention was part of a string of arrests involving British dual nationals or Iranians linked with British institutions. Amiri worked for five years as an artistic affairs officer for the British Council where she organised artistic exchanges between Britain and Iran.
Sir Ciarán Devane, the chief executive of the British Council, rejected the charges against Amiri. He said: “Further to reports, we would like to express our deep disappointment and dismay that our colleague Aras Amiri has had her appeal against her 10-year sentence rejected by the Iranian authorities. We remain extremely concerned for Aras’s safety and wellbeing and continue to refute the accusation levied against her.”
In an appeal letter to Iran’s chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, Amiri said she had refused to spy for Iran’s intelligence service before she was sentenced. The letter, which was sent in June and published by the US-based Centre for Human Rights in Iran, said: “I turned down their explicit invitation for cooperation and told them I could only work in my specific field, not any other kind of work.”
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the centre, called for Amiri’s immediate release.