(New York, NY) — PEN America celebrated the acquittal and release of Iranian art curator Aras Amiri, who was serving a 10-year sentence after being arrested during a visit to Iran in 2018 and convicted of spying. 

“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, and we are thankful that Iran’s Supreme Court has now acquitted her of all charges. 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,” said Julie Trebault, the Director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “While we celebrate Amiri’s release, we are mindful that Iran retains the dubious distinction of having jailed the fourth-highest number of writers and intellectuals globally in 2020, with cases including poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin, who died only days ago from COVID-19 he contracted while in prison.”

At the time of her arrest, Amiri had lived in the United Kingdom for 10 years and worked as an arts programme officer at the non-profit cultural organization the British Council, where she promoted the Iranian arts in the UK. In 2019, a spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary alleged that Amiri had used contacts with arts and theater groups to “influence and infiltrate” Iran through the cultural sphere and that she had confessed to cooperating with British intelligence while in Iranian custody.

PEN America leads the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a program dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC.