Iranian champion wrestler executed despite international campaign

By September 16 2020, 16:16 Latest News No Comments

Navid AfkariIranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari was executed in Iran on Saturday, defying international appeals for him to be spared.

According to Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA, the execution by hanging was reported to have taken place at a prison in the southern city of Shiraz.

The 27 year old was sentenced to death on a charge in relation to the murder of a security guard, Hasan Turkman, during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018. Mr Afkari said he had been tortured into making a confession.

His family were unable to say goodbye and were informed of the sentence after it was carried out.

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that it was “shocked” by the announcement.

The statement said: “In letters, Thomas Bach, the IOC President, had made direct personal appeals to the Supreme Leader and to the President of Iran this week and asked for mercy for Navid Afkari, while respecting the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC, together with the NOC of Iran, United World Wrestling and the National Iranian Wrestling Federation, did not achieve our goal”.

Iranian judiciary spokesperson said that Afkari was sentenced to Islamic verdict of ghesas or ‘retribution-in-kind’.

Afkari’s brothers Vahid and Habib were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison in the same case, according to human rights activists in Iran.

International campaigns to stop the execution included those from the World Players Association (WPA), a body that represents professional athletes, which had protested the sentence and called for Iran to be threatened with expulsion from international sport, including from the Olympic movement, if the execution was carried out.

Afkari was one of thousands to protest the Iranian regime over economic hardship and political repression in 2018, and a statement from the WPA said that “he has been unjustly targeted by the Iranian authorities who want to make an example out of a popular, high-profile athlete and intimidate others who might dare exercise their human right to participate in peaceful protest”. They went on to say that Afkari was “sentenced to death twice after being tortured into making a false confession”.

The Human Rights Watch also called for an international intervention and a new trial.

US President Donald Trump also tried to intervene, by tweeting: “To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you!”.

Iran has the second highest confirmed executions globally with it believed to execute the most people per capita. Last year there were 251 confirmed executions, however the true figure is believed to be far greater. This figure included four people under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes.

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