British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari has been executed after being sentenced to death on charges of spying for Britain, Iran’s state media has said.
The Iranian judiciary claimed Mr Akbari, who was deputy defence minister under former president Mohammad Khatami until 2001, was a “key spy” for the British government, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
It said Iranian intelligence unmasked the alleged MI6 spy by feeding him false information and described him as “one of the most important infiltrators of the country’s sensitive and strategic centres”.
Mr Akbari claimed he was tortured and given mind-altering drugs and forced to confess to crimes he did not commit.
Early on Saturday, Iran’s Mizan news agency, associated with the country’s judiciary, tweeted that Mr Akbari had been hanged. It did not say when or where it took place amid rumours he had been executed days ago.
Sky News Middle East correspondent Ali Bunkall said reports of the execution appeared “credible and accurate”.
He said Mr Akbari was arrested in 2019 and charged with spying after he was accused of receiving “hundreds of thousands of pounds” for providing intelligence to Britain – claims he denied.
“His family in Tehran were called to his prison on Wednesday for what was described as a ‘final visit’,” Bunkall said.
He added that Mr Akbari’s family members had reported he had been moved to solitary confinement during his time in prison.
‘A barbaric regime’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had appealed for Mr Akbari’s release when reports of his planned execution emerged.
Earlier this week, Mr Cleverly tweeted: “Iran must halt the execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari and immediately release him.
“This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life.”
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chair Alicia Kearns had also condemned the planned execution, accusing the regime in Tehran of reacting because it felt “cornered” as a result of international sanctions and anti-government protests.
“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 the BBC Radio 4 PM programme.
On Friday, US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said: “The charges against Alireza Akbari and his sentencing to execution were politically motivated. His execution would be unconscionable.
“We are greatly disturbed by the reports that Mr Akbari was drugged, tortured while in custody, interrogated for thousands of hours, and forced to make false confessions.”
She added: “More broadly, Iran’s practices of arbitrary and unjust detentions, forced confessions, and politically motivated executions are completely unacceptable and must end.”