Prime minister Rishi Sunak has said the execution of British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari in Iran was a ‘callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime’.
Sunak, writing on Twitter after Iranian state media announced Tehran had executed Akbari on charges of spying for Britain, said: “I am appalled by the execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari in Iran.
‘This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people. My thoughts are with Alireza’s friends and family.’
Akbari was an Iranian former deputy defence minister who was arrested in 2019 and accused of espionage for MI6 related to past nuclear talks between Iran and western nations, according to Iranian state media.
Alireza Akbari, who was sentenced to death on charges of corruption on Earth and extensive action against the country’s internal and external security through espionage for the British government’s intelligence service… was executed,’ Iran’s Mizan news agency said in a tweet.
It accused him of receiving €1,805,000, £265,000, and $50,000 for spying.
The Islamic regime proceeded with his execution just hours after British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly warned them not to execute Akbari, a former Iranian deputy defence minister.
Britain had described the death sentence as politically motivated and called for his immediate release in an unsuccessful bid to save him.
Cleverly said on Twitter: ‘Iran has executed a British national.
‘This barbaric act deserves condemnation in the strongest possible terms.
‘This will not stand unchallenged. My thoughts are with Alireza Akbari’s family.’
In an audio recording broadcast by BBC Persian on Wednesday, Akbari said he had confessed to crimes he had not committed after extensive torture.
‘With more than 3,500 hours of torture, psychedelic drugs, and physiological and psychological pressure methods, they took away my will. They drove me to the brink of madness… and forced me to make false confessions by force of arms and death threats,’ he said.
Iranian state media broadcast a video on Thursday that they said showed that Akbari played a role in the 2020 assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, killed in a 2020 attack outside Tehran which authorities blamed at the time on Israel.
In the video, Akbari did not confess to involvement in the assassination but said a British agent had asked for information about Fakhrizadeh.
Iran’s state media often airs purported confessions by suspects in politically charged cases.
Earlier this week, Mr Akbari’s wife Maryam said an official asked her to visit her husband in prison for a ‘final meeting’ before the state killing.
He was transferred to solitary confinement, a sign that the execution was imminent after the death was sentenced issued by the Revolutionary Court.
Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence described Akbari as ‘one of the most important agents of the British spy service’.
He previously worked in Iran’s military and security institutions and has joint citizenship of Iran and Britain.
He then served as the international deputy of the Ministry of Defence under two-star general Ali Shamkhani, who served from 1997 to 2005.
Shamkhani is the current secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, a key decision-making body.
Some believe the charges against Akbari may have been politically motivated by rivals of Shamkhani.
Iran claims that after Akbari was identified as a spy, he was used by Tehran authorities to mislead Britain with ‘directed information’.
At one point, Akbari was in Europe but he said he left Iran legally and was involved economically in several companies on the continent.
But Iran accused him of ‘running away’ and having a ‘front company’, and his financial lawyers have been accused of being intelligence agents.
Ties between London and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts have stalled to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact, to which Britain is a party.
Britain has also been critical of the Islamic Republic’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests, sparked by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September.
Tehran has detained a number of dual and foreign nationals in recent years, including British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held in 2016 and released last year.