Iran’s execution of Alireza Akbari, a dual Iranian-British citizen, on charges of spying for Britain is a “significant escalation” that shows Tehran is “testing red lines,” an analyst said.
Iran said on Saturday it had executed Akbari, a former defense ministry official, despite calls from Britain for his release.
Akbari was arrested in 2019 and the death sentence against him was announced on Wednesday.
British foreign minister James Cleverly condemned the execution as a “barbaric” act that “will not stand unchallenged.”
“This is a significant escalation which has implications for the dual-nationals being held hostage in Tehran. (Iran) is testing red lines,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), wrote on Twitter.
Several Westerners, including dual nationals, are currently imprisoned in Iran. Western governments and human rights groups have accused Iran of taking them as “hostages” in an effort to gain concessions from the West.
Brodsky noted that Akbari’s case was different to other foreign and dual nationals held in Iran in that he was a former official, but added that his execution “must be met with a decisive response” from the West.
Akbari was a close associate of Ali Shamkhani, who was the defense minister during the tenure of former president Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and currently holds a position as the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a top decision-making body.
The relationship between Akbari and Shamkhani has led to speculation that rivals of Shamkhani within the regime may be behind the case against Akbari and that it may be an attempt to undermine Shamkhani’s standing within the regime.
On Thursday, some pro-regime social media channels claimed that Shamkhani would soon be replaced as the secretary of the SNSC, but this was denied on Friday by Nour News, a news outlet affiliated with the SNSC.
No decision had been made to replace Shamkhani, said Nour News.