LONDON — U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly condemned the “cowardly and shameful” execution of British-Iranian citizen Alireza Akbari as he warned Tehran: “The world is watching you and you will be held to account.”
Iran announced on Saturday that it had executed Akbari, a former Iranian defense minister who was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for the U.K., a charge he denied.
His killing has drawn outrage from countries including Germany, France and the United States.
In his first statement to the House of Commons since the execution, Cleverly said of Akbari: “Let there be no doubt, he fell victim to the political vendettas of a vicious regime.
“His execution was the cowardly and shameful act of a leadership which thinks nothing of using the death penalty as a political tool to silence dissent and settle internal scores.”
In the wake of the execution, the U.K. has imposed sanctions on Iran’s prosecutor general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri. The British ambassador to Tehran has been temporarily recalled.
Cleverly told British lawmakers that Montezari “bears heavy responsibility for the use of [the] death penalty for political ends.”
The U.K.’s opposition Labour Party meanwhile urged the government to officially declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group, with shadow Foreign Office minister Bambos Charalambous warning: “The playbook of this regime is to use brutality and violence for its own political ends and its own survival.”
Earlier, Tobias Ellwood, a Conservative MP and chairman of the defense select committee, told Times Radio that the U.K. had become “too risk-averse” when it comes to standing up to the Iranian regime.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this weekend said the U.S. “stands firmly with the U.K. in strongly condemning Iran’s execution” of the British-Iranian and “will continue to hold Iran accountable for its sham trials and politicized executions.”