DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran mentioned Saturday it executed a former high-ranking protection ministry official and twin Iranian-British nationwide, regardless of worldwide warnings to not perform the demise sentence. The execution additional escalated tensions with the West amid the nationwide anti-government protests shaking the Islamic Republic.
The hanging of Ali Reza Akbari, a detailed ally of high safety official Ali Shamkhani, suggests an ongoing energy wrestle inside Iran’s theocracy because it tries to comprise the demonstrations over the September demise of Mahsa Amini. It additionally harkened again to the mass purges of the navy that instantly adopted Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Akbari’s hanging drew quick anger from London, which together with the U.S. and others has sanctioned Iran over the protests and its supplying Russia with the bomb-carrying drones now focusing on Ukraine.
“This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak mentioned.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly summoned Iran’s chargé d’affaires in the UK and quickly withdrew Britain’s ambassador from Tehran as Britain additionally sanctioned the Islamic Republic’s prosecutor-general.
“Our response to Iran is not limited to today,” he warned.
Iran equally summoned the British ambassador after the execution.
Iran’s Mizan information company, related to the nation’s judiciary, introduced Akbari’s hanging with out saying when it occurred. Nonetheless, there have been rumors he had been executed days earlier.
Iran has alleged, with out offering proof, that Akbari served as a supply for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, identified popularly as MI6. A prolonged assertion issued by Iran’s judiciary claimed Akbari obtained giant sums of cash, his British citizenship and different assist in London for offering info to the intelligence service.
Nonetheless, Iran lengthy has accused those that journey overseas or have Western ties of spying, typically utilizing them as bargaining chips in negotiations.
Akbari, who ran a personal assume tank, is believed to have been arrested in 2019, however particulars of his case solely emerged in current weeks. These accused of espionage and different crimes associated to nationwide safety are normally tried behind closed doorways, the place rights teams say they don’t select their very own legal professionals and aren’t allowed to see proof towards them.
Iranian state tv aired a extremely edited video of Akbari discussing the allegations, footage that resembled different claimed confessions that activists have described as coerced confessions.
The BBC Farsi-language service aired an audio message from Akbari on Wednesday, during which he described being tortured.
“By using physiological and psychological methods, they broke my will, drove me to madness and forced me to do whatever they wanted,” Akbari mentioned within the audio. “By the force of gun and death threats they made me confess to false and corrupt claims.”
Iran has not commented on the torture claims. Nonetheless, the United Nations human rights chief has warned Iran towards the “weaponization” of the demise penalty as a way to place down the protests.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Akbari’s execution.
“We mourn with his loved ones and will continue to hold Iran accountable for its sham trials and politicized executions,” Blinken mentioned.
Robert Malley, the U.S. particular envoy for Iran, mentioned he was “horrified” by Akbari’s execution.
“The Islamic Republic’s unjust detentions, forced confessions, sham trials and politically motivated executions must end,” he wrote on-line.
French President Emmanuel Macron additionally decried what he referred to as “a heinous and barbaric act.” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock referred to as the execution “a further inhuman act by the Iranian regime.”
Iran is without doubt one of the world’s high executioners. Nonetheless, it wasn’t instantly clear when the final time a former or present high-ranking protection official had been executed. In 1984, Iran executed its navy chief Adm. Baharam Afzali together with 9 different navy individuals on a cost of spying for the Soviet Union.
Iran’s authorities for months has been attempting to allege — with out providing proof — that overseas international locations have fomented the unrest gripping the Islamic Republic because the demise of 22-year-old Amini in September after her detention by the morality police. Protesters say they’re offended over the collapse of the economic system, heavy-handed policing and the entrenched energy of the nation’s Islamic clergy.
For a number of years, Iran has been locked in a shadow battle with the USA and Israel, marked by covert assaults on its disputed nuclear program. The killing of Iran’s high nuclear scientist in 2020, which Iran blamed on Israel, indicated overseas intelligence companies had made main inroads. Iran talked about that scientist in discussing Akbari’s case, although it’s unclear what present info, if any, he would have had on him.
Akbari had beforehand led the implementation of a 1988 cease-fire between Iran and Iraq following their devastating eight-year battle, working carefully with U.N. observers. He served as a deputy protection minister below Shamkhani throughout reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s administration, possible additional making his credentials suspicious to hard-liners inside Iran’s theocracy.
At present, Shamkhani is the secretary of the Supreme Nationwide Safety Council of Iran, the nation’s high safety physique, which Supreme Chief Ayatollah Ali Khamenei oversees. Akbari’s audio message aired by the BBC Persian included him saying he was accused of acquiring top-secret info from Shamkhani “in exchange for a bottle of perfume and a shirt.” Nonetheless, it seems Shamkhani stays in his function.
The anti-government protests now shaking Iran are one of many greatest challenges to the Islamic Republic because the 1979 revolution.
A minimum of 522 protesters have been killed and 19,400 individuals have been arrested, in response to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a bunch that has been monitoring the unrest. Iranian authorities haven’t offered official figures on deaths or arrests.
Iran has executed 4 individuals after convicting them of fees linked to the protests in equally criticized trials, together with assaults on safety forces.
Related Press author Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.