ⓒ JoongAng Ilbo / JoongAng Ilbo Japanese version2023.01.18 14:30
The Iranian government recently executed Alireza Akbari, 61, a former Iranian undersecretary of defense who holds dual British-Iranian citizenship, on suspicion of spying.
According to the British daily Telegraph, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on the 17th (local time) that “under the British regime, a member of the royal family killed 25 innocent people like removing chess pieces.” People who close their eyes to crime are not qualified to preach human rights in other countries,” he said on Twitter. The remarks were aimed at Prince Harry (38), who recently revealed in his memoir, Spare, that he had killed 25 Taliban soldiers.
Iran’s reference to Britain’s Prince Harry further deepened rifts between the two sides, amidst recent tensions over Akbari’s execution. Prince Harry, who left the royal family last year, has repeatedly criticized the royal family in documentaries and interviews. In particular, the part in his memoir that revealed, “I shot and killed 25 Taliban soldiers while serving in Afghanistan twice.
The British government reiterated its response to Iran’s foreign ministry statement, saying that “legitimate military personnel should not be compared to barbaric executions,” The Telegraph reported.
Last week, local Iranian media reported that Mr. Akbari was executed for his espionage activities for the British Foreign Intelligence Agency (MI6), which endangered Iran’s internal and external security. The exact date of the execution was not released, but local media also released a video of Akbari confessing to the crime before his execution.
However, Akbari’s family protested to the BBC, saying, “He never acted as a spy and was forced to produce a video of his confession.” Akbari, who helped pave the way for the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, retired from public office and settled in Britain as an investment immigrant. He was executed on suspicion of spying after entering Tehran in 2019 at the mercy of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) General Secretary Ali Shamkhani. Shamkhani was the defense minister at the time Akbari was undersecretary of defense.
Britain strongly opposed the move, recalling its ambassador in Tehran back to his home country. The recall of the ambassador is interpreted diplomatically as a very strong display of protest. British Prime Minister Sunak also criticized Akbari’s execution as “a cowardly act of a barbaric regime”.
The British government has announced that it will include the Iranian Attorney General on its sanctions list and designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the core military organization of the Iranian regime, as a terrorist. “The timing of Iran’s execution of Mr Akbari coincided with moves by the British parliament to designate the IRGC as terrorists,” the BBC said.
Meanwhile, Reuters recently pointed out that the current Iranian president Raisi is behind the Iranian government’s tough stance. Raisi, who began his term in 2021, has faced international criticism for his harsh rule last year, including the execution of four civilians involved in anti-government protests sparked by hijab demonstrations.
Reuters commented, “He is aiming for the position of supreme leader (currently Ayatollah Khamenei) and is strengthening his hard-line stance.”