Iran has executed a wrestler accused of murder, defying international appeals for him to be spared.
Navid Afkari, 27, was sentenced to death over the murder of a security guard during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018.He said he had been tortured into making a confession.Human rights organisation Amnesty International described Afkari’s execution as a “travesty of justice”.In a leaked recording released by the group, Afkari says: “If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed.”Afkari was executed by hanging in the southern city of Shiraz, according to state media.His lawyer said his client had been prevented from seeing his family before his death, as required under Iranian law.”Were you in such a hurry to carry out the sentence that you deprived Navid of a last visit?” Hassan Younesi said on Twitter.There had been many calls to stop the execution, including from a union representing 85,000 athletes worldwide.The World Players Association said he had been “unjustly targeted” for taking part in the protests, and called for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it went ahead with the execution.US President Donald Trump also appealed for mercy, saying the wrestler’s “sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets”.The International Olympic Committee (IOC) called his execution “very sad news” and said their thoughts were with his family and friends.”It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC… did not achieve our goal,” their statement said.
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.In an audio recording leaked from the prison where he was being held, Afkari had said he had been tortured. His mother said her sons were forced to testify against each other.His lawyer had said on Twitter that, contrary to Iranian news reports, there was no video of the moment of the security guard’s killing. He added that footage used as evidence in the case was taken an hour before the crime took place.The Iranian authorities have denied accusations of torture.Afkari was a national champion in wrestling, a sport that has a long history and is hugely popular in Iran.In 2018, protesters in cities across Iran took to the streets over economic hardship and political repression.