Iran executes suspected UK spy
Iran has executed a dual British-Iranian national and former senior security official, Alireza Akbari, the country’s judiciary announced Saturday. Akbari, who served as Iran’s deputy defense minister between 2000 and 2008, was arrested back in 2019 and sentenced to death for spying on behalf of Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency.
“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,” Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency said. Akbari had received a total of €1,805,000 euros, £265,000 and $50,000 for his spying activities, the agency noted.
The execution was followed by hostile diplomatic steps by both sides. Hours after it took place, the Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador to express indignation over London’s alleged “acts of sabotage and acts against national security.”
“In response to Britain's unconventional interventions, including in the national security field of the Islamic Republic of Iran, today, Simon Shercliff, the ambassador of this country in Tehran, was summoned,” the ministry said in a statement.
The continuation of such illegal and criminal actions cannot be tolerated in any way; therefore, the British government must accept the consequences of the responsibility of continuing its unorthodox and interventionist approach.
Top British officials, in turn, have condemned the execution, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branding it a “callous and cowardly act.”
London has also slapped personal sanctions on Iran’s prosecutor general over the execution of Akbari. Announcing the move, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said London was “holding the regime to account for its appalling human rights violations.”
“Sanctioning him today underlines our disgust at Alireza Akbari’s execution. The Prosecutor General is at the heart of Iran's use of the death penalty,” Cleverly stated.
The consistently cold ties between Tehran and London have seemingly deteriorated even further in recent months in the wake of mass protests in Iran, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. While critics of the Iranian authorities insisted she was killed by the police, Tehran maintains her death was a result of a pre-existing condition.
Iran has repeatedly accused foreign actors, including London, of stirring up unrest in the country. According to Tehran, the UK dismantled a whole “network” fueling the protests that had operated “under the direct guidance of elements from Britain.”