Aras Amiri, a former employee of the British Council, has been released from prison in Iran and returned home to the UK after nearly three years of unjust detention.
News of Amiri’s return to London was shared by the British Council on Wednesday. Amiri was arrested in March 2018 after coming back to Iran to visit family, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison by the Revolutionary Court of Tehran the following May on espionage charges.
The British Council said Amiri had been acquitted ahead of her release. She had been held in Evin Prison for the duration of her captivity and temporarily released in early July 2021 after the Supreme Court accepted her application for a retrial. That August, her lawyer argued that the verdict against her was “against religious law”.
Amiri is a graduate of Art Philosophy at Kingston University. In the course of her work she had organized Iranian arts exhibitions, theatre performances, music concerts, and film festivals showcasing the work of both British and Iranian artists.
In February the British Council had ceased its operations in Iran, citing “intimidation and harassment” of its staff on the ground. Amiri herself has said she was arrested after refusing an invitation to spy on behalf of the Iranian regime.
Rights groups celebrated the news of Amiri’s release this week. Julie Trebault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection at PEN America, said: “We are thrilled that Amiri has been released from prison and has been safely reunited with her family in the United Kingdom. She should never have been convicted in the first place.
“We hope that this acquittal will send a wider signal to Iranian authorities that cultural exchange is no crime, and should not be treated as such.”