Amid its ongoing protest crackdown following months of 'anti-hijab' demonstrations which have resulted in hundreds of deaths, Iran has just executed a former high level official after he was convicted of spying for a foreign enemy nation.
The Islamic Republic's former deputy defense minister Alireza Akbari was killed by hanging on Saturday, state media and the judiciary confirmed. He had been accused of spying for the United Kingdom for a period spanning years.
Akbari's arrest had only been revealed in recent weeks, even though he was reportedly detained all the way back in 2019, and his execution marks the first high profile, former top ranking government official (the country's #2 defense chief) to be put to death in decades. He had also been an IRGC commander at one point.
What's more is that he was a dual British citizen, which apparently brought him under suspicion of Tehran's intelligence services. According to The New York Times:
Iran’s intelligence ministry called Mr. Akbari a "super spy" for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence service, and accused him of passing classified national security information to the agency and receiving a payment of over 2 million euros (about $2.2 million). Iran’s state news media and his family said he had been arrested and detained for four months in 2008 on suspicion of spying for Britain, and later released on bail. He then traveled to Austria, Spain and finally Britain.
The statement from the judiciary said that Mr. Akbari had spied for Britain from 2004 to 2009, as well as when he "fled the country" and moved to Britain. It said he had been recruited by British diplomats in Tehran under the guise of trade partnerships.
Iran is saying he confessed to spying, while his family maintains that the confession was given under extreme duress.
His obtaining British citizenship and a passport after reportedly completing business deals in the UK brought him under immediate Iranian government suspicion. Tehran says the UK passport was a reward for his spying services.
Worth noting it is extremely rare for #Iran's regime to acknowledge that it executed someone of Alireza Akbari's rank as a deputy MODAFL minister. Though it is not unprecedented. Former Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh was executed in 1982. 1/2https://t.co/hYsScrBIIK pic.twitter.com/0GhhJVhbW4— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) January 14, 2023
Condemnation of the Akbari was quick to come in from world leaders. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “appalled” by the killing of the British-Iranian citizen. "This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people," Sunak said. "My thoughts are with Alireza’s friends and family." The UK foreign ministry also called it a "barbaric act".
French President Emmanuel Macron of France also denounced the "despicable and barbaric" act, writing on Twitter that "His name adds to too long a list of victims of repression and the death penalty in Iran." Macron added: "Solidarity with the UK. Solidarity with the Iranian people."
Iran has also faced international scrutiny and condemnation for a series of protest-related executions, which stands at at least four known instances of people killed for alleged crimes related to the demonstrations. Dozens more are on death row.