Iran clears ex-British embassy staffer of espionage

4th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Iran has cleared a former British embassy staffer who was jailed last year on espionage charges, and commuted his sentence to a suspended one-year jail term, his lawyer said on Monday.

"The appeals court dropped espionage charges for which Hossein Rassam was sentenced to four years in prison," the lawyer, Babak Farahi, told AFP.

"He was sentenced to one year in jail, suspended for five years, for propaganda against the establishment... as he had no previous record and held no managerial posts," he said.

But the court "upheld a previous ruling that bans him from working for foreign embassies for five years," the lawyer said, adding the appeals verdict was issued on Sunday.

Rassam, the embassy's chief political analyst, was arrested in June 2009 along with eight other local employees of the mission on charges of taking part in riots after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The eight were later freed and Rassam released on bail after three weeks, before being paraded on television in a mass trial in August 2009 and later handed the four-year jail term amid protests from Britain and the European Union.

Iran has jailed scores of reformist politicians, journalists, students and rights activists on charges of undermining the regime and inciting unrest after the vote which the opposition dismissed as massively rigged.

Iran's highest authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has accused the United States and Britain of fomenting the post-vote unrest and seeking to topple the regime by backing internal critics.

The Islamic republic's ties with Britain have worsened as Tehran also expelled a BBC correspondent shortly after the mass protests.

© 2010 AFP

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