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Iran. A court has sentenced former defense minister Alireza Akbari to death for spying for Britain

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An Iranian court on Wednesday sentenced Alireza Akbari, a former deputy defense minister, to death for spying for Britain, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. The British Foreign Office called on Tehran to release the man, who also has British citizenship. “This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime,” wrote James Cleverly, head of the Foreign Office.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted that “Iran must stop the execution of British-Iranian Alireza Akbari and release him immediately.” “This is a politically motivated act by a barbaric regime that has utter disregard for human life,” he added.

“We support Mr Akbari’s family and have raised his case with the Iranian authorities on many occasions,” a British Foreign Office spokesman said in a statement. “Our priority is his immediate release, we have repeated our request for urgent access by consular services” to the convicted person – he added.

Akbari’s wife on preparations for execution

Alireza Akbari’s wife, Mariam, confirmed to the BBC that Iranian authorities were preparing to execute him. She said the official asked her to come to a Tehran prison “for a last meeting”. The man was also to be moved to solitary confinement, seen as a sign of his impending execution.

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Akbari, Iran’s former deputy defense minister, was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for Britain. He himself denies the allegations. In an audio recording that BBC Persian was to receive from Akbari, he claims he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit.

Protests in Iran

On Tuesday Olivier Vandecasteele, Belgian citizen and an aid worker, was sentenced by an Iranian court to a total of 40 years in prison and 74 lashes for spying, among other charges. It is unclear whether the allegations against the Belgian are related to the anti-government protests that broke out after death of young Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini and have been shaking Iran since mid-September 2022. Since the beginning of the protests in Iran, many foreigners have been arrested, blaming “enemies from abroad” for inciting the citizens.

Two French men were also charged with espionage and acting against Iran’s national security in early January, and two journalists, Nilufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, who exposed the Mahsa Amini case, were arrested and charged with espionage in November. They face the death penalty.

Mahsa Amini was detained by Iran’s morality police over a headdress that officials said did not adequately cover her hair. After the arrest, the young woman fell into a coma under unclear circumstances and died.

Main photo source: Adobe Stock

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