Iran Defies Global Outcry and Executes Champion Wrestler Navid Afkari

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Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed in Iran on Saturday, according to Iran's state-run news agency IRNA, despite a high-profile worldwide campaign calling for the sentence not to be carried out.

Mr Afkari was accused of fatally stabbing a water-utility worker amid unrest in Shiraz, a centre of the anti-government protests that swept the country in 2018.

On September 5, 2020, Afkari's forced confession was aired on state television, a move trying to justify the death sentence.

Reports published overseas say Afkari was condemned on the basis of confessions aired on television after being extracted under torture, prompting online campaigns of support for his release. His lawyer said there was no proof of his guilt.

Iran's judiciary, however, denied the claims of torture, saying the due legal procedures were followed in the case and the wrestler was provided full opportunity to put up his case.

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

Last week Brendan Schwab, the executive director of the World Players Association, had insisted that, in executing Afkari, Iran would be "forfeiting its right to be a part of sport's universal community".

United States President Donald Trump also expressed his own concerns.

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US President Donald Trump had pleaded for Afkari's life earlier this month, saying that his "sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets".

Ultimately, Iran ignored Trump's request. Iran's Supreme Court rejected a review of the case in late August. "They were protesting the "country's worsening economic situation and inflation" To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him".

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency dismissed Mr Trump's tweet in a feature story, saying that American sanctions had hurt Iranian hospitals during the pandemic.

In this June 25, 2018 file photo, a group of protesters chant slogans at the main gate of the Old Grand Bazaar, in Tehran, Iran.

Hanging the wrestler Navid Afkari, this morning reflects the regime's desperate need for stepping up repression.

The television also showed what appeared to be written confessions by Afkari, but he said in a recording circulated on social media that he was coerced into signing the documents.

The head of the local judiciary, Seyed Kazem Mousavi, told official Iranian news media that the execution was "carried out after due judicial process and at the insistence of the family of the murdered victim".

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