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13 September 2020 06:30

Ultimate Fighting Championship Michelle Waterson Angela Hill

Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari executed despite global outcry

Iran has executed a champion wrestler convicted of murdering a security guard during anti-regime protests in 2018, state media said on Saturday, despite an international campaign to spare his life. Navid Afkari, 27, was executed "this morning after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim", the Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the head of the justice department in the southern Fars province as saying. His case had created a global outcry, including from the US president, Donald Trump, and from the World Players Association (WPA), a major athletes' union representing 85,000 people, which had called for Iran's expulsion from world sport if the execution went ahead. Afkari, a Greco-Roman wrestler, was arrested along with his brother Vahid Afkari in September 2018 and accused of stabbing to death a security guard the previous month during protests in the city of Shiraz. Navid Afkari filed a complaint with the Iranian judiciary in September 2019, claiming he had confessed to the killing under torture.

"The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate [the acts of torture]," Afkari said in a tape obtained by an Iranian human rights group. Iranian state media broadcast Afkari's recorded confession last week after Trump tweeted about his case. Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai, whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets. A champion wrestler has been executed in Iran despite a plea from Donald Trump for his life to be spared. Navid Afkari's case had prompted a social media campaign that portrayed him and his brothers as victims who were targeted for taking part in protests against Iran's Shia theocracy in 2018.

Iranian authorities had accused the 27-year-old of stabbing a water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz amid the unrest. A top justice official was quoted by state TV as saying: "The retaliation sentence against Navid Afkari, the killer of Hassan Turkman, was carried out this morning in Adelabad prison in Shiraz." Iran broadcast what was purported to be the wrestler's televised confession last week, although human rights groups have said he was forced into the statement. "These brothers are the latest victims of Iran's deeply flawed criminal justice system, and their case is further evidence that Iranian courts systematically rely on 'confessions' obtained under torture and other ill-treatment to secure criminal convictions, in contravention of international law," said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. Imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, herself nearly a month into a hunger strike over conditions at Tehran's Evin prison amid the coronavirus pandemic, said she supported Afkari. "To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him," Mr Trump wrote.

Iran responded to the tweet with a near 11-minute state TV package on Afkari, which featured the weeping parents of the murdered water company employee. Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency also dismissed Mr Trump's tweet, saying American sanctions had hurt Iranian hospitals during the pandemic. "Trump is worried about the life of a murderer while he puts many Iranian patients' lives in danger by imposing severe sanctions," the agency said in a feature story. Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed after being convicted of stabbing to death a security guard, according to state media. Afkari was shown performing a stabbing gesture during a police reconstruction of the killing while saying, "I hit twice, once and then again." Human rights groups frequently accuse Iran's state media of airing coerced confessions.

The International Olympic Committee said the execution of Afkari was "very sad news", adding in a statement that IOC President Thomas Bach had written this week to Iranian leaders asking for mercy for him, while respecting Iran's sovereignty. "To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him," Trump tweeted earlier this month. Iran responded to Trump's tweet by running an 11-minute state TV broadcast on Afkari, which included the weeping parents of Turkman. Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency dismissed Trump's tweet in a feature story, saying that American sanctions have hurt Iranian hospitals amid the pandemic. Iran's state TV reported that the country's authorities have executed a champion wrestler who attended anti-government protests in 2018 and said he was tortured into confessing to murder.

Iran's state TV is reporting that the country's authorities have executed a wrestler who attended anti-government protests in 2018. State TV quoted the chief justice of Fars province, Kazem Mousavi as saying on Saturday: "The retaliation sentence against Navid Afkari, the killer of Hassan Turkman, was carried out this morning in Adelabad prison in Shiraz." "To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him," Trump wrote last week. Also, Iran's semiofficial Tasnim news agency dismissed Trump's tweet in a feature story, saying that American sanctions have hurt Iranian hospitals amid the pandemic. An Iranian champion wrestler has been given 2 death sentences after protesting against the country's government