Iran says British ‘spy’ about to be executed was a senior defense official

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An Iranian-British dual national who was sentenced to hang for espionage for British intelligence once held positions at the top of Tehran’s defense and security establishment, Iranian state media said Thursday.

Alireza Akbari’s positions included “Deputy Defense Minister for Foreign Affairs” and served in the “Secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council,” state news agency IRNA reported.

Akbari also served as “advisor to the Commander of the Navy” and “headed a division in the defense ministry’s research center,” it added.

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Akbari was found guilty of “corruption on earth and for harming the country’s internal and external security by passing on intelligence,” the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency reported on Wednesday.

Britain has demanded that Tehran halt what Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has called a “politically motivated” execution.

Mizan, citing a statement from Iran’s intelligence ministry, said Akbari became a “key spy” for Britain’s secret intelligence agency, known as MI6, because of “the importance of his position”.

In February 2019, Iran’s official government newspaper published an interview with Akbari, who was identified as a “former deputy defense minister” during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency from 1997-2005.

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IRNA, who said Akbari is 61 years old and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War that raged from 1980-1988, said he was arrested sometime between March 2019 and March 2020.

The state news agency also released a nine-minute video showing pictures of Akbari, including people with their faces hidden.

In the video, he is apparently seen talking about his contacts with Britain, and also says he was questioned by the British about top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, killed in November 2020 in an attack that Tehran blames archenemy Israel.

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In early December, Iran executed four people accused of collaborating with Israeli intelligence, Mizan said at the time.

Iran hanged them four days after the Supreme Court upheld their death sentence for “their intelligence collaboration with the Zionist regime (Israel) and kidnapping,” Mizan reported.

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