Iran has executed a British-Iranian national who was deputy defense minister, the judiciary said on Saturday, defying London’s calls for his release after being sentenced to death on charges of spying for Britain.
London, which had declared the case of Alireza Akbari, 61, politically motivated and called for her release, condemned the execution.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it a “cruel and cowardly act carried out by a barbaric regime that does not respect the human rights of its own people.”
Iran’s Mizan news agency reported the execution early Saturday, without specifying when it had taken place. Late on Friday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly declared that Iran should not carry out the sentence, a request joined by Washington.
The execution increases pressure on Iran’s tense relations with the West, which have deteriorated further since talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal reached an impasse and Tehran unleashed a deadly crackdown on protesters last year.
In audio allegedly recorded by Akbari and broadcast on Wednesday by BBC Persia, he claimed he had confessed to crimes he had not committed after being subjected to torture.
“Alireza Akbari, who was sentenced to death on charges of corruption on land … and espionage for the British government’s intelligence service … was executed,” Mizan said.
The Mizan report accused Akbari, arrested in 2019, of receiving payments of 1,805,000 euros, 265,000 pounds and 50,000 dollars for espionage.
Sunak said on Twitter that he was “horrified by the execution,” while Cleverly said in a statement that the act “will not go unpunished.”
British commentary on the case has not addressed the Iranian accusation that Akbari spied for Britain.