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Politics

Execution Of Iranian-British Citizen Akbari Imminent, Wife Says

January 12, 2023
3 min read
Alireza Akbari, a former deputy defense minister, was arrested in 2019. He has denied the spying allegations against him.
Alireza Akbari, a former deputy defense minister, was arrested in 2019. He has denied the spying allegations against him.

Authorities in Iran are preparing to execute a former official who holds dual Iranian and British nationalities, his wife has said, after a court confirmed the death sentence handed to him on spying charges.

The judiciary's Mizan news agency confirmed on January 11 that Alireza Akbari was found guilty of espionage and that the Supreme Court has rejected his appeal.

The agency quoted the Intelligence Ministry as calling him "one of the most important infiltrators" of classified materials in the country for the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6.

Akbari's wife, Maryam, told BBC Persian he had been moved to solitary confinement and that the family has been asked to go to his prison for a "final visit."

Akbari, a former deputy defense minister, was arrested in 2019. He has denied the spying allegations against him.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urged the Islamic Republic to halt the planned execution and immediately release him.

"This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life," Cleverly tweeted.

The UK Foreign Office said it had again requested "urgent consular access," but the Islamic Republic does not recognize dual nationality for Iranians.

The BBC said it had obtained an audio message on January 11 from Akbari saying he had been "interrogated and tortured" by Iranian intelligence agents "for more than 3,500 hours," and forced to confess under duress on camera to crimes he did not commit.

"During all those 3,500 hours, which took more than 10 months, they were recording my confessions with 10 cameras to make their Hollywood-style film," he says, adding that he was also given "psychedelic drugs."

The former official says he was living abroad a few years ago when he was invited to visit Iran at the request of a top Iranian diplomat.

Once in the country, he was accused of obtaining top secret intelligence from the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, "in exchange for a bottle of perfume and a shirt," Akbari says.

On January 12, Iranian state media published a video in which Akbari said he played a role in the 2020 assassination of the country's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Iranian authorities routinely extract confessions from prisoners or their family members by force, which are then broadcast for propaganda purposes.

Akbari served under Shamkhani when the latter was defense minister during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, between 1997 and 2005.

Iranian authorities has arrested dozens of Iranians with dual nationality or foreign permanent residency in recent years, mostly on spying and national-security charges. Western governments have repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of taking them hostage for the sole purpose of using them in prisoner swaps.

The Islamic Republic is one of the world’s top executioners and typically executes prisoners by hanging.

Around 20 people have been handed capital punishment in connection with ongoing nationwide protests that erupted in mid-September over the death of a young woman while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country's head scarf law.

Two of them were hanged on January 7 amid international outrage, bringing to four the number of people executed over the protests so far.

Amnesty International on January 11 urged the Iranian authorities to immediately halt all executions of people sentenced to death in relation to nationwide protests.

“It is abhorrent that the Iranian authorities persist in their state-sanctioned killing spree as they desperately seek to end the protests and cling to power by instilling fear among the public,” Diana Eltahawy, the London-based group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

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