Alireza Akbari, a dual British-Iranian citizen and former Iranian official, has been sentenced to death in Iran for spying for the United Kingdom, according to Iranian judiciary-affiliated outlet Mizan on Wednesday.
Akbari previously served as Iran’s deputy defense minister and was the head of the Strategic Research Institute, as well as a member of the military organization that implemented the United Nations resolution that ended the Iran-Iraq war, according to Iranian pro-reform outlet Shargh Daily.
According to the allegations in Mizan, Akbari “some time ago was arrested for spying against this country. On this basis and after filing an indictment against the accused, the file was referred to court and hearings were held in the presence of the accused’s lawyer and based on the valid documents in this person’s file, he was sentenced to death for spying for the UK.”
The British government has called for Iran to halt the execution and release Akbari. The BBC has reported Akbari was arrested in 2019 and that he served under Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who was in office from 1997 to 2005.
Akbari appealed the decision, and after reviewing the case, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, according to Mizan. The outlet claims Iran’s intelligence ministry confirmed that Akbari was an undercover agent for the British secret intelligence service MI6, alleging that he collected “important national information and provided it in a fully aware and informed manner.”
“This spy was in the process of obtaining a visa from the British Embassy by intelligence agents stationed there,” Mizan said.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called for the execution to be halted. “Iran must halt the execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari and immediately release him. This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life,” he said in a tweet.
A UK Foreign Office spokesperson told CNN it was supporting Akbari’s family “and have repeatedly raised his case with the Iranian authorities. Our priority is securing his immediate release and we have reiterated our request for urgent consular access.”
The Islamic Republic of Iran has long ranked among the world’s top executioners.
The regime executed 314 people in 2021, 20% more than the previous year, rights group Amnesty International said in a report from May 2022. Many of those had to do with drug-related crimes.
Last weekend, Iran executed two protesters charged with killing security personnel, causing an international outcry. Critics said that the executions were a result of hasty sham trials.