Iran executes British-Iranian national

STORY: Iran has executed a British-Iranian national who once served as its deputy defense minister, its judiciary said on Saturday (January 14), defying calls from London for his release after he was handed the death sentence on charges of spying for Britain.

A report from the Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency accused Alireza Akbari, arrested in 2019, of receiving payments of 1,805,000 euros, 265,000 pounds, and $50,000 for spying.

In an audio recording purportedly from Akbari and broadcast by BBC Persian on Wednesday, he said he had confessed to crimes he had not committed after extensive torture.

Iranian state media broadcast a video on Thursday that they said showed that Akbari played a role in the 2020 assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.

Fakhrizadeh was killed in an attack outside Tehran, which authorities blamed on Israel at the time.

In the video, Akbari did not confess to involvement in the assassination.

But said a British agent had asked for information about Fakhrizadeh.

Iran’s state media often airs supposed confessions by suspects in politically charged cases.

Reuters could not establish the authenticity of the state media video and audio, or when or where they were recorded.

Britain had declared the case against 61-year-old Akbari as politically motivated and called for his release.

Condemning his execution, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called it, quote, "a callous and cowardly act carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people."

Britain's statements on the case have not addressed the Iranian charge that Akbari spied for the UK.

The execution is likely to pile more pressure on Iran's long strained relationship with the West.

Ties have deteriorated further since talks to revive its 2015 nuclear deal hit deadlock, and as Tehran unleashed a deadly crackdown on protesters last year.