Iran jails 3 on espionage, cultural infiltration charges

August 27, 2019

TEHRAN – Iran has jailed two people, one on espionage charges and the other on charges of working to culturally infiltrate the country and influence people against the establishment.

The first one is British dual national, who is sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying for Israel, and another two years for receiving illegal payments, the judiciary said on Tuesday.

Anousheh Ashouri, a woman with British and Iranian citizenship, got 10 years in prison for feeding information to Israel's Mossad spy agency, the Mizan Online website reported, quoting judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili on Tuesday.

She was also handed a two-year prison sentence for receiving 33,000 euros ($36,600) in illicit funds from Israel and ordered to pay the same amount in fines.

The United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) said it was supporting the family of Ashouri following the ruling.

"Our Embassy in Tehran continues to request consular access,” an FCO spokesman said in a statement.

Ali Johari, an Iranian national, was also sentenced to 10 years in prison for various espionage offences, including "widespread connections with Mossad... and meeting with various elements linked to the Zionists", Esmaili said, the agency reported.

Johari had been in contact with operatives in India, Laos and Sri Lanka, among other countries, and also travelled to "the occupied lands [Israel]", the judiciary added.

He had been in the process of "getting citizenship from this country", said Esmaili, in an apparent reference to Israel.

Johari also received two years in jail for accepting illicit funds and was ordered to pay that unspecified amount in fines, said Esmaili.

The Judiciary spokesman also confirmed that an Iranian appeals court had upheld a 10-year jail sentence to British Council employee Aras Amiri for "cultural infiltration", adding the latter was "already serving her term".

"This person... was identified by us because of her cultural infiltration in society through arts and her widespread activities," he added.

London-based Amiri was arrested in Iran in 2018.

Mizan Online reported her original sentence on May 13, saying she had "made a straightforward confession" after being arrested by Iranian intelligence and security agencies "more than a year ago".

At the time, Esmaili said she had been tasked with drawing up and managing cultural "infiltration" projects.

Iranian authorities shut down the British Council more than a decade ago for what Esmaili described as "illegal activities".

The developments came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the UK, a major ally of the United States, with the pair recently embroiled in a bitter spat over the seizure of two oil tankers.

An Iranian tanker was seized off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion of allegedly shipping oil to Syria.

That vessel was later released, but Iran continues to hold a British-flagged tanker it seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19 for allegedly breaking "international maritime rules".

Tensions had already been strained between the two sides over the fate of the British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2016 as she was leaving Tehran.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 41-year-old Thomson Reuters Foundation employee, was later put on trial and is now serving a five-year jail sentence for "trying to topple" the Iranian government.

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