(Photo Credit: Leeuwarder Courant)
The UK Ambassador to Iran, Simon Shercliff, was summoned by Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 14 January over British interference in Iran’s internal affairs.
The foreign ministry stated that the meeting with Shercliff concerned Iran’s protest over acts of sabotage against the Islamic Republic’s national security, reported Tasnim News Agency.
The incident came following UK officials’ heated response to the execution of former high-ranking official and Iranian-British dual national Alireza Akbari, who was hanged the same day, after being sentenced to death on charges of spying for UK intelligence service MI6.
The Iranian foreign ministry also clarified that under Iranian law, dual nationality is not accepted, and that Britain’s interference and statements under the pretext of Akbari’s dual citizenship are unwarranted.
Immediately after Akbari’s execution, the UK temporarily withdrew its Iranian envoy in condemnation and proceeded to impose sanctions on Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, including an asset freeze and UK travel ban.
In announcement of the measures taken, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly tweeted that the sanctioning “underlines our disgust,” and that the prosecutor general is at the “heart of Iran’s use of the death penalty.”
The UK has sanctioned Iran's
Sanctioning him today underlines our disgust at Alireza Akbari's execution.
The Prosecutor General is at the heart of Iran's use of the death penalty.
We're holding the regime to account for its appalling human rights violations
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) January 14, 2023
Similarly, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted that the execution was “callous and cowardly,” describing Iran as a “barbaric regime.”
Sunak also claimed that the UK response “is not limited to today. We are reviewing further action.”
I am appalled by the execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari in Iran.
This was a callous and cowardly act, carried out by a barbaric regime with no respect for the human rights of their own people. My thoughts are with Alireza’s friends and family.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) January 14, 2023
Earlier this month, the UK also began preparations for the designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization under the country’s Terrorism Act. Following a parliamentary debate over the adoption of the policy, government minister Leo Docherty informed the House of Commons on 12 January that the issue was being actively considered, but did not clarify when the decision would be taken.
If the UK designates the IRGC as a terrorist organization, it would be joining the US, France, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in doing so. That said, the decision poses a risk, as the British government would then have to apply the same to its allies’ armed forces.
Akbari – who was detained in 2019 after Iranian intelligence managed to intercept his communications and mislead MI6 – tried to appeal his sentence, but the appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court. However, his trial took place in the presence of his lawyer, and was issued based on “substantiated evidence,” reported Mehr News Agency.
According to Mizan News Agency, he was executed on charges of corruption and “extensive acts against the country’s internal and external security.” He also received 1,805,000 euros, 265,000 pounds, and $50,000 for his collaboration with the UK.
In a statement, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry described him as “one of the most infiltrating agents of the spying service of the evil UK in the country’s sensitive and strategic centers.”
The former defense official’s taped video confessions – published by the intelligence ministry – shed light on the extent to which MI6 was able to infiltrate Iran’s internal affairs, and his involvement in doing so.
“I assumed responsibilities that entitled me to give security advice to others,” Akbari says in the video.
His high position, along with his access to secret documents and information, drew British interest, and he “fell into the trap” of MI6. According to his confession, it was via the British embassy and ambassador to Iran that he was contacted by the intelligence service, who provided him with a visa to enter the UK.
He was given intelligence and espionage training, special communication tools and vast financial resources. In exchange, he divulged sensitive information pertaining to Iran’s military, nuclear, diplomatic and regional policies.
#MegaSpy Akbari didn’t say much!
He only exposed Fakhrizadeh ‘father of Iran nuclear program’, helped identify/categorise key figures, gave up secrets on nuclear negotiations, shared info on Iran military projects & discussed details of Iran-Russia talks pic.twitter.com/7SUnaq2qo8
— iQ MidEast Update (@iQMidEastUpdate) January 14, 2023
Akbari explains that MI6 was interested in Iran’s internal developments, the activities of its officials, and even the capabilities of nuclear physicist and scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was assassinated by Israel in 2020.
Several western media outlets have described the video confession as “heavily edited,” and reported that Akbari was heard saying in an audio recording that he made false confessions as a result of drugging and torture. There is no evidence of these claims.
Alireza Akbari served as deputy defense minister under Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani during Mohammad Khatami’s presidency between 1997 and 2005. Shamkhani is now secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
It is worth noting that he only obtained British citizenship as a benefit and result of working with MI6.