13 January 2023 :
The family of Alireza Akbari, a British-Iranian dual national sentenced to death in Iran, have told BBC Persian that authorities are preparing to execute him.
Alireza Akbari's wife, Maryam, said the family had been asked to go to his prison for a "final visit" and that he had been moved to solitary confinement.
The ex-deputy Iranian defence minister was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for the UK, which he denied.
Alireza Akbari was given the death penalty for “corruption on Earth and for harming the country’s internal and external security by passing on intelligence”, Iran’s judicial news agency Mizan Online reported on Wednesday.
The former defence ministry official was described by Iran’s intelligence ministry as “one of the most important infiltrators of the country’s sensitive and strategic centres”.
Citing a statement from the intelligence ministry, Mizan said Akbari became a “key spy” for the United Kingdom’s “Secret Intelligence Service” – MI6 – because of “the importance of his position”.
BBC Persian also broadcast an audio message on Wednesday from Mr Akbari in which he says he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit.
He says that he was living abroad a few years ago when he was invited to visit Iran at the request of a top Iranian diplomat who was involved in nuclear talks with world powers.
Once there, he adds, he was accused of obtaining top secret intelligence from the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, "in exchange for a bottle of perfume and a shirt".
Mr Akbari served under Mr Shamkhani when the latter was defence minister during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who was in office for two terms between 1997 and 2005.
Mr Akbari alleges in the audio message that he was "interrogated and tortured" by intelligence agents "for more than 3,500 hours".
"During all those 3,500 hours, which took more than 10 months, they were recording my confessions with 10 cameras to make their Hollywood-style film," he says, adding that he was also given "psychedelic drugs".
"By using physiological and psychological methods, they broke my will, drove me to madness and forced me to do whatever they wanted. By the force of gun and death threats they made me confess to false and corrupt claims."
He also accuses Iran of seeking "to take revenge on the UK by executing me".
Hours after the audio message was broadcast, the Iranian judiciary's Mizan news agency confirmed for the first time that Mr Akbari had been found guilty of espionage, and that the Supreme Court had rejected his appeal.
The UK’s foreign minister, James Cleverly, called the planned execution “politically motivated” and demanded Akbari’s immediate release.
“We are supporting the family of Mr Akbari and have repeatedly raised his case with the Iranian authorities,” a British foreign office spokesperson said in a statement. “Our priority is securing his immediate release and we have reiterated our request for urgent consular access. We have requested urgent consular access, but Iran's government does not recognise dual nationality for Iranians”.
Iran has arrested dozens of Iranians with dual nationality or foreign permanent residency in recent years, mostly on spying and national security charges.
British-Iranian citizens Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were released and allowed to leave Iran last year after the UK settled a long-standing debt owed to Iran.
However, at least 2 other British-Iranians remain in detention beside Mr Akbari, including Morad Tahbaz, who also holds US citizenship.