UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly Monday told the House of Commons that Iran “will be held to account” for the execution of British-Iranian citizen and former Iranian Deputy Minister of Defence Alireza Akbari. Cleverly called the execution a “cowardly and shameful act of leadership” and said that the Iranian government had misused the death penalty as a “political tool” to silence its opponents and dissenters.
Iranian authorities executed Akbari on Saturday on charges of “corruption in the land and extensive action against the internal and external security of the country through espionage” for the UK. He was arrested on Thursday after he was accused of obtaining information training and anti-prosecution training from the British Intelligence Service MI6. Iran alleges Akbari carried out espionage activities with the incentive of gaining British citizenship and a vast sum of more than $2 million in various currencies.
The foreign secretary paid tribute to Akbari’s family and lauded their fortitude throughout the “terrible” period. He also expressed Britain’s support for the Iranian people as they call for their rights and freedoms amidst harsh political repression and remarked how the UK’s condemnation of Iran on the International stage resulted in Iran’s removal from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Cleverly also criticized the Iranian government for ignoring calls for reform in their country in favor of its strategy of “blaming outsiders and lashing out against its supposed enemies”, notably by imprisoning an increasing number of foreigners for political purposes. He addressed the Iranian government directly during his speech, saying “Our message to that regime is clear: the world is watching you and you will be held to account, particularly by the brave Iranian people, so many of whom you are oppressing and killing.”
The execution was strongly condemned by British government officials including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Minister of State for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs Lord Tariq Ahmad as well as the governments of France, Germany, the United States, and the European Union.
The UK government also imposed sanctions against Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as a result of the execution.