Ali Reza Akbari executioned in Iran

Ali Reza Akbari, who abandoned Iran in 2001 and was once the country’s defence minister, was executed in Iran on Saturday after being found guilty of spying for the United Kingdom, the Iranian judiciary reported.

KhabarOnline News Agency via APIran declared that they had executed Ali Reza Akbari, a dual citizen of Britain and Iran who was accused of espionage on behalf of the UK’s MI6 and was implicated in the murder of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Mizan Online, the Iranian judiciary’s news agency, stated that Mr Akbari was hung after the Supreme Court had confirmed the judgement and all the legal steps were completed.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the execution as the act of a “barbaric regime”.

“I am appalled by the execution of British-Iranian citizen Ali Reza Akbari in Iran,” Mr Sunak said on Twitter.

“This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who called on Friday for Iran to not carry out the death sentence, said Mr Akbari’s execution “will not stand unchallenged”.

Last week James Cleverley urged the Iranian government not to proceed with their plans to execute Akbari, a British-Iranian dual national. His appeal was rejected over three months ago. The UK Foreign Office had said it was supporting Akbari’s family during the appeal and had been in touch with the Iranian authorities regarding his case only days ago after all legal avenues in Iran were exhausted. The UK Foreign Office had requested urgent consular access, but Iran’s government does not recognise dual nationality for Iranian citizens.

Both the family and the British Foreign Office chose not to publicise Akbari’s case after he was arrested over three years ago, in the hopes that he would be released as part of an internal appeal process.

Akbari was arrested in Iran over three years ago and spent his sentence in Evin prison in Tehran where he likely met with other British Iranian dual nationals. Alireza Akbari was the deputy defence minister under reformist President Mohammad Khatami who served as Iranian President from 1997-2005.

Ties between the UK and Iran have deteriorated since the outbreak of protests in Iran in September. The UK has imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police as well as other top Iranian security figures, in response to the authority’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests. In recent weeks, reports have suggested that Tom Tugendhat, the UK Security Minister, and Suella Braverman, the UK’s Home Secretary, are in favour of officially classifying Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, a move that could further weaken ties. While Iran has arrested many Iranians with dual nationality or foreign residency, many have been released such as British-Iranian citizens Nazanim Zaghari-Ratclifffe and Anoosheh Ashoori after the UK settled a longstanding debt owed to Iran.

At least two other British-Iranian nationals are said to remain in Iranian detention, including Morad Tahbaz who also holds US citizenship.