Iran has sentenced a former defense ministry official to death for allegedly spying for Britain, the official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
Alireza Akbari, who served as a deputy defense minister during the tenure of former president Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), was found guilty of “corruption on earth and extensive action against Iran’s internal and external security through the transmission of information (to Britain),” according to IRNA.
Akbari, who holds British citizenship, appealed the sentence but the appeal was rejected by Iran’s supreme court, IRNA said. This suggests that his execution may occur in the near future.
Iran’s intelligence ministry, in a statement, described Akbari as “one of the most important agents” of MI6, and said he had provided valuable information about Iran to the British intelligence agency.
British foreign minister James Cleverly said that the death sentence against Akbari was “politically motivated” and called for his immediate release.
“Iran must halt the execution of British-Iranian national Alireza Akbari and immediately release him,” Cleverly wrote on Twitter.
“This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has total disregard for human life.”
IRNA did not specify the date of Akbari’s arrest, but the BBC reported that he was arrested sometime between 2019 and 2020.
Akbari’s wife expressed concern to the news outlet that his execution may be imminent, as he was transferred to solitary confinement on Tuesday evening, a typical prelude to execution for death row prisoners in Iran.
She also told the BBC that an official had asked her to come to his prison in Tehran for a “final meeting.”
Akbari is said to have been a close associate of Ali Shamkhani, who was the defense minister in the Khatami administration and currently holds a position as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, a top decision-making body.
Some observers have suggested that the charges against Akbari may be politically motivated by rivals of Shamkhani within the regime.