Iran said on Saturday it had executed an Iranian-British national who once held a high-ranking position in the country’s defence ministry despite international warnings to halt his death sentence, further escalating tensions with the West amid the nationwide protests now shaking the country, the Associated Press reported.
Iran struggles to contain protests after Amini’s death
The hanging of Ali Reza Akbari, a close ally of top security official Ali Shamkhani, suggests an ongoing power struggle within Iran’s theocracy as it struggles to contain the demonstrations over the September death of Mahsa Amini. It also harkened back to the mass purges of the military that followed Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Akbari’s hanging drew immediate anger from London, which along with the US and others, has sanctioned Iran over the protests and its supplying of Russia with the bomb-carrying drones now targeting Ukraine.
UK condemns hanging, calls it ‘barbaric’
“The execution of British-Iranian Ali Reza Akbari is a barbaric act that deserves condemnation in the strongest possible terms,” foreign secretary James Cleverly said.
“Through this politically motivated act, the Iranian regime has once again shown its callous disregard for human life. This will not stand unchallenged,” he said.
Iran’s Mizan news agency, associated with the country’s judiciary, announced Akbari’s hanging without saying when it happened.
Akbari served MI6, as per Iran
Iran has alleged, without providing evidence, that Akbari served as a source for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6. A lengthy statement by Iran’s judiciary claimed Akbari received large sums of money, his British citizenship, and other help in London for providing information to the intelligence service.
Akbari, who ran a private think tank, is believed to have been arrested in 2019, but details of his case only emerged in recent weeks.
Iranian state television aired a highly edited video of Akbari discussing the allegations, footage that resembled other claimed confessions that activists have described as coerced confessions.
Akbari had alleged torture
The BBC Farsi-language service aired an audio message from Akbari on Wednesday, in which he described being tortured. “By using physiological and psychological methods, they broke my will, drove me to madness and forced me to do whatever they wanted,” Akbari said in the audio. “By the force of gun and death threats they made me confess to false and corrupt claims.” Iran has not commented on the torture claims.
The UN human rights chief has warned Iran against the “weaponisation” of the death penalty as a means to put down the protests.
Iran’s government has for months been trying to allege, without offering evidence, that foreign countries have fomented the unrest gripping the Islamic Republic since the death of Amini in September after her detention by the morality police.