Alireza Akbari, a British-Iranian national was executed by Iran over charges of being a British spy. Akbari previously held top positions in the Iranian Government, serving as deputy defence minister from 2000 to 2008 under General Ali Shamkhani. 

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The execution of Akbari has drawn condemnation from British officials, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling it “cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people.”

Who was Alireza Akbari?

A close ally of Shamkhani, he served as the deputy defense minister of Iran from 2000 to 2008, as a part of reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s administration. 

Akbari was also a part of the military organization which implemented the 1988 cease-fire between Iran and Iraq, consequently ending the Iran–Iraq War in 1988. 

Iran’s state news agency IRNA aired a video on Thurday, which suggested that Akbari went to America after being briefly detained released on bail in 2008. However, it has not been confirmed if Akbari actually moved to Britain or when he returned to Iran. 

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Akbari was arrested in 2019. An audio recording emerged, purportedly by Akbari, which was broadcasted by BBC Persian on January 11, in which he said that he returned to Tehran after he was invited by senior Iranian diplomat involved in Tehran’s nuclear talks with other nations. 

BBC Persian was informed by Maryam Samadi, Akbari’s wife that the latter was held solitary confinement for ten months before he was moved to Tehran’s Evin prison. 

Akbari could be heard saying that he had made false confessions due to being tortured. “With more than 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 make false confessions by force of arms and death threats. They would tell me: ‘If you resist, we will send you to the dark cells of Evin prison where you’ll face an interrogator with a whip,” he said. 

Iranian state media aired a video on Thursday which, they say, showed Akbari’s involvement in 2020 assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Fakhrizadeh was killed outside Tehran, and Israel was held responsible by the officials at the time. 

Akbari did not confess to being involved in the attack, but he did mention that a British agent asked him information about Fakrizadeh. 

Akbari’s execution was announced on January 11, after being pleaded guilty of spying for M16. He was executed on January 14, 2023.