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The family of 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 an official had asked her to come to his prison in Tehran for a “final meeting”.

He has also been transferred to solitary confinement, a sign that an execution was imminent.

The ex-deputy Iranian defence minister was arrested in 2019 and convicted of spying for the UK, which he denied.

BBC Persian also obtained an audio message from Mr Akbari in which he said he was tortured and forced to confess on camera to crimes he did not commit.

He said 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 added, 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.

Hours after the audio message was broadcast on BBC Persian on Wednesday, 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.

It cited Iran’s intelligence min­istry as saying that Mr Akbari had been “one of the most important infiltrators of the country’s sensi­tive and strategic centres” for the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, and that he had been “compiling and consciously transferring sensitive information”.

A spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office told the BBC: “We are supporting the family of Mr Akbari and have repeatedly raised his case with the Iranian authorities.

“Our priority is securing his immediate release and we have reiterated our request for urgent consular access.”

Iran is second only to China in the number of executions carried out annually.

At the end of November, state media reported that authorities had hanged four Iranian men convicted of “co-operating” with Israeli intelligence. —Aljazeera

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