Iran hangs former defence minister Alireza Akbari, convicted of spying for the UK

Uk Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the execution was a 'callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime'

Alireza Akbari (Photo:BBC)
Alireza Akbari (Photo:BBC)

Iran has executed British-Iranian Alireza Akbari, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of spying for the UK.

The former deputy Iranian defence minister had been arrested in 2019 and charged with spying, despite him denying the accusations.

The Iranian judiciary's official news outlet Mizan reported on Saturday that Akbari had been hanged, without specifying the date when the execution took place.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the execution was a "callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime".

Iran's rulers had "no respect for the human rights of their own people," Sunak said, adding that his thoughts were "with Alireza's friends and family".

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the execution would "not stand unchallenged".

Iran posted a video of Akbari earlier in the week showing what appeared to be forced confessions, and after the country's intelligence ministry had described the British-Iranian as "one of the most important agents of the British intelligence service in Iran".

However BBC Persian broadcast an audio message on Wednesday from Mr Akbari in which he said he had been tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit.

The UK Foreign Office has been supporting Akbari's family and had repeatedly raised his case with Iranian authorities. It had requested urgent consular access, but Iran's government does not recognise dual nationality for Iranians.

In Akbari's audio message, he said that he was living abroad a few years ago when he was invited to visit Iran at the request of a top Iranian diplomat who was involved in nuclear talks with world powers.

Akbari alleged that he was "interrogated and tortured" by intelligence agents "for more than 3,500 hours".

Ties between the UK and Iran have deteriorated in recent months since the UK imposed sanctions on Iran's morality police and other top security figures, in response to the country's violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Iran has arrested dozens of Iranians with dual nationality or foreign permanent residency in recent years, mostly on spying and national security charges.