SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 14, 2018

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Kingston University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Iran

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 14, 2018, Iranian intelligence officials arrested Kingston University art philosophy graduate student Aras Amiri on national security-related charged in apparent retaliation for her academic work. On May 21, Amiri was released on bail. She was summoned to Evin Prison and taken into custody on September 7.

Amiri worked on joint cultural exchange projects between Iranian and British artists, for the British Council and with support from the artistic department of Iran’s cultural ministry. In March 2018, she was traveling in Iran to visit her grandmother in the hospital. On March 14, as she was on her way to the airport preparing to leave the country, intelligence agents arrested Amiri, charging her with “assembly and collusion against national security.” Amiri’s family publicly announced her detention on May 1. At that time, she had reportedly been detained in Evin Prison Ward 209, without access to legal counsel, for fifty days. On May 21, Amiri was released on a $120,000 bail. On September 7, 2018, Amiri was summoned back to Evin Prison and transferred to the women’s ward, where she remains as of this report.

Amiri’s arrest is one of several recent detentions and national security-related prosecutions of Iranian dual nationals, including Iranian-British mathematics and computer science professor of Imperial College in London Abbas Edalat.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of a scholar, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of her right to freedom of expression -conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with the exercise of the rights to non violent expression or association, and to ensure that the rights of the accused, including due process and fair trial are protected.

UPDATE: On May 14, 2019, it was reported that Amiri had been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, apparently for refusing to spy on behalf of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. Amiri’s trial was reportedly held in February and March 2019 at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Reports indicate that she was forced to choose a government-approved lawyer. On May 13, a Judiciary Spokesman reported that an Iranian student, who had been studying in London, was convicted and sentenced on espionage-related charges, based on an alleged confession for cooperating with UK intelligence. Iranian authorities have previously used forced confessions in the conviction of other imprisoned scholars and students, including Ahmadreza Djalali. No other evidence supporting the charges against Amiri has been publicly disclosed.