Rishi Sunak condemns ‘cowardly’ execution of British-Iranian Alireza Akbari

Rishi Sunak has said he is 'appalled' by the execution of Alireza Akbari, who was detained in 2019 and charged with spying for the UK - a charge he has denied. Rachel Younger has the latest.

British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari has been executed by Iran, its state media has said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, writing on Twitter after Iranian state media announced Tehran had executed Alireza Akbari, said: “I am appalled by the execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari in Iran.

“This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people. My thoughts are with Alireza’s friends and family.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had appealed on Friday to Iranian authorities not to proceed.

The UK has now sanctioned Iran’s prosecutor general after the “barbaric regime” went ahead with the execution.

Cleverly said the move “underlines our disgust” at the decision to put Alireza Akbari to death.

Prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri is at the “heart of Iran’s use of the death penalty”, the Cabinet minister added.

Human rights group Amnesty International UK accused Iran of having “pitifully little respect” for the right to life after it executed Mr Akbari.

However a statement from the Iranian Students’ News Agency said: “The sentence of Alireza Akbari, the son of Ali with dual Iranian-British citizenship, who was sentenced to death on charges of corruption in the land and widespread action against the country’s internal and external security through espionage for the intelligence apparatus of the British government, was executed.”

Mr Akbari was an Iranian former deputy defence minister who was arrested in 2019 and accused of espionage for MI6 related to past nuclear talks between Iran and western nations, according to reports.

He denied the charge and said he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit, BBC Persian reported.

Earlier this week, Mr Akbari’s wife Maryam told BBC Persian she was invited to a “final meeting” at the prison where he was put in solitary confinement.

Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns previously accused the Iranians of seeking to “weaponise” dual nationals as anti-government protests convulse the country.

“It is another horrifying example of the Iranian regime – because they feel they are cornered, because there is such significant pressure from sanctions – weaponising British nationals and industrialising hostage-taking,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

She said Mr Akbari may have been singled out by the regime because of his closeness to a leading Iranian moderate who has led calls for dialogue and discussion.

Tehran has detained a number of dual and foreign nationals in recent years, including British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was held in 2016 and released last year.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been contacted for comment.

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