Labour has called for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be branded a terrorist organisation after the execution of Alireza Akbari.
David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said the force, which is a branch of Iran’s armed forces, is “behaving like a terrorist organisation” and should be proscribed.
Akbari, a British-Iranian national and former Tehran defence official, was arrested in 2019 and accused of spying for MI6, a charge which he denied. The Iranian state media confirmed his execution.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the execution and branded it “a callous and cowardly act” that he said was carried out by a regime with “no respect for the human rights of their own people”.
Labour said the execution was “barbaric” and that the IRGC now poses a “growing threat” on UK soil.
The party also cited the unjust imprisonment of British nationals in Iran, long-standing concerns about Iran’s threats to Israel, and its support for violent groups across the region as reasons to formally label the guards a terror outfit.
The move could have widespread domestic political support after MPs last week voted in favour of adding the revolutionary guards to a list of banned terrorist organisations in the UK.
The backbench motion, tabled by Conservative MP Bob Blackman, is non-binding on the government and ministers are still considering the matter.
Labour said ministers could go through the existing proscription process. Alternatively, the party proposed making an amendment to the National Security Bill that would create a parallel power to proscribe state bodies like the IRGC on the basis of their activity.
In a joint statement, Mr Lammy and Ms Cooper said: “The Iranian regime’s actions against courageous protesters seeking a better future, as well as British nationals imprisoned in Iran and its threats to UK security, mean robust action is needed now.
“The IRGC is behaving like a terrorist organisation and must now be proscribed as such.
“Labour supports proscribing the IRGC either through the existing process, or through amending the National Security Bill to create a new process of proscription for hostile state actors.”
Party officials pointed to MI5 director Ken McCallum’s most recent threat update, referring to 10 kidnap and death plots by the Iranian regime on British soil, as part of the case against the IRGC.
Senior Tories, including former cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, have been urging ministers to take a harder line on the IRGC in recent months.
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairperson Alicia Kearns has called on ministers to shut down a London base which is said to be used by the special branch.
The Tory MP said she wanted to see the “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp office in Maida Vale closed”.
However, a watchdog has warned that proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist organisation could destabilise the UK’s definition of terrorism.
Jonathan Hall KC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, told The Independent last week: “Proscribing a state entity under the Terrorism Act 2000 would depart from consistent and decades-long UK policy, and calls into question the definition of terrorism which, to date, has proven practical and effective.
“If state forces are capable of being ‘concerned in terrorism’, the question of how the definition of terrorism applies to other state forces will have to be addressed, at risk of upsetting the settled meaning of terrorism in domestic law.”
Additional reporting by PA