An Iranian flag flies in front of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna.
Heinz-Peter Bader | Reuters
Iran has executed British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari, the Mizan news agency reported on Saturday, after it sentenced the former Iranian deputy defense minister to death for spying for Britain.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Friday night that Iran should not go ahead with the execution – a call echoed by the US State Department. Britain had described the death sentence as politically motivated and called for his release.
Mizan said in a Tweet early Saturday that the sentence had been served, without saying when.
“Alireza Akbari, who was sentenced to death for corruption on earth and large-scale action against the internal and external security of the country through espionage for the intelligence services of the British government (…) has been executed,” he added.
The report accuses Akbari, arrested in 2019, of having received 1,805,000 euros, 265,000 pounds and 50,000 dollars for espionage.
In an audio recording purportedly of Akbari and broadcast by BBC Persian on Wednesday, he said he confessed to crimes he did not commit after extensive torture.
Iranian state media released a video on Thursday which it said showed Akbari played a role in the 2020 assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in a 2020 attack on the outside Tehran, which authorities at the time blamed on Israel.
In the video, Akbari did not confess his involvement in the assassination but said a British agent had requested information about Fakhrizadeh.
Iranian state media often broadcast alleged confessions of suspects in politically motivated cases.
Reuters could not establish the authenticity of the state media video and audio, or when or where they were recorded.
Relations between London and Tehran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear pact, to which Britain is a party, have stalled.
Britain has also criticized the Islamic Republic’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests, sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in September.
A British foreign secretary said Thursday that Britain was actively considering outlawing the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, but did not take a final decision.
Iran has handed down dozens of death sentences in its crackdown on the unrest, executing at least four people.
In the audio recording broadcast by BBC Persian, Akbari said he made a false confession following torture.
“With over 3,500 hours of torture, psychedelic drugs, and physiological and psychological pressure methods, they took away my will. They drove me to the brink of madness…and forced me to do false confessions by force of arms and death threats,” he said.
Akbari was a close ally of Ali Shamkhani, now secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, who served as defense minister from 1997 to 2005, when Akbari was his deputy.