Iran executes former deputy defense minister accused of spying for UK

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Iran has executed a former deputy defense minister accused of spying for the United Kingdom for multiple years. 

The county’s Mizan news agency, run by its judiciary, reported on Saturday that Alireza Akbari was hanged after allegedly confessing to and being found guilty of corruption and action against Iran’s internal and external security through espionage. It did not provide details about when the execution occurred.

Much of the international community and human rights organizations have denounced Iran’s judicial system as being unfair, reporting it often arbitrarily detains people, forces confessions from accused prisoners and widely leans on the death penalty. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he is “appalled” by the execution of Akbari, who is a British-Iranian citizen. 

“This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people,” he said. “My thoughts are with Alireza’s friends and family.”

U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called the execution a “barbaric act” and said it “will not stand unchallenged.”

He later added that the U.K. has sanctioned Iran’s prosecutor general.

“Sanctioning him today underlines our disgust at Alireza Akbari’s execution,” Cleverly said. “The Prosecutor General is at the heart of Iran’s use of the death penalty. We’re holding the regime to account for its appalling human rights violations.”

Mizan reported that prosecutors had evidence of Akbari engaging in long meetings with “enemy” intelligence officers in different countries and communications with the U.K.’s MI6 spy service. It said he received more than 1.8 million euros from the U.K. for his actions. 

Akbari joined the private sector after stepping down from his role in Iran’s defense ministry. Mizan claimed his recruitment to spy for the U.K. began when he obtained a visa from the British embassy in Tehran, alleging he established a connection with MI6 under the pretext of commercial and research dealings. He also allegedly traveled to Austria to meet with an MI6 intelligence officer. 

Mizan reported numerous alleged incidents it said demonstrated Akbari’s collaboration with British intelligence, including meetings with officers in more than half a dozen countries, giving information about Iranian scientists and faking a stroke to give him and his family a reason to leave Iran. It also noted Akbari receiving British citizenship and opening an account with a major British bank. 

On Wednesday BBC Persia aired an audio message from Akbari in which he alleged he had been tortured and that intelligence agents made him “confess to false and corrupt claims” with the use of both “physiological and psychological methods,” according to the BBC.



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