British-Iranian national accused of being a spy executed in Iran

British-Iranian national accused of being a spy executed in Iran

British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari has been executed by Iran on charges of spying for the UK.

Mr Akbari was a former deputy defence minister under former president Mohammad Khatami and was arrested in 2019 after being accused of feeding information to the British government - a charge which he denied.

A statement from the Iranian Mizan news agency said: “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.”

Following the news, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemmed the “callous and cowardly act” by the Iranian regime.

He 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.”

Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had called for Mr Akbari’s release, claiming his execution was a “politically motivated act”.

Mr Akbari been accused by the Iranian state of being an MI6 spy who played a role in the assasination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in 2020.

He denied the charge and said he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit, BBC Persian reported.

Iran’s intelligence ministry said he had been “one of the most important agent of the British intelligence service in Iran”.

Earlier this week, Mr Akbari’s wife Maryam told BBC Persian she was invited to a “final meeting” at the prison where he was put in solitary confinement.

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns previously accused the Iranians of seeking to “weaponise” dual nationals as anti-government protests convulse the country.

“It is another horrifying example of the Iranian regime – because they feel they are cornered, because there is such significant pressure from sanctions – weaponising British nationals and industrialising hostage-taking,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

She said Mr Akbari may have been singled out by the regime because of his closeness to a leading Iranian moderate who has led calls for dialogue and discussion.

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.