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Who was Navid Afkari and why has Iran executed him?

The judicial authorities in Iran confirmed the champion wrestler has been executed in the southern province of Fars, sparking an international outcry.

Who was Navid Afkari and why has Iran executed him?
ALEXANDER BECHER EFE

Judicial authorities in Iran confirmed on Saturday that Navid Afkari, a national champion in wrestling, has been executed after bring convicted of the murder of a security guard during the 2018 anti-government protests in the country. The head of the justice department in Shiraz said Afkari had been executed "this morning after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim," state media IRIB reported. The case has caused international condemnation as Afkari always protested his innocence and said he gave a false confession after being tortured.

Amnesty International said that Afkari was able to make a brief call to his family from the Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz on 6 September. A day earlier, Afkari’s supposed confession was broadcast on state television in what Amnesty termed “a propaganda video” that attempted to justify his death sentence and divert attention from a “shocking catalogue of human rights violations and crimes, including enforced disappearance; torture and other ill-treatment, leading to forced “confessions”; and denial of access to a lawyer and other fair trial guarantees.”

This young man desperately sought help in court to receive a fair trial and prove his innocence. Leaked voice recordings of him in court expose how his pleas for judges to investigate his torture complaints and bring another detainee who had witnessed his torture to testify were unlawfully and cruelly ignored,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Trump sought to halt execution

Afkari was arrested on 17 September, 2018 during anti-government protests in Shiraz and accused of stabbing Hasan Torkman, a government security agent, to death. He subsequently received the death sentence. His brothers, Vahid and Habib, received sentences of 54 and 27 years for charges relating to the case, human rights activists in Iran reported.

In recent weeks Afkari had asked for his sentence to be reviewed by the Supreme Court but his requests were quashed. Iran’s judiciary denies claims of torture and forced confession.

Afkari’s case was closely monitored by the United States. President Donald Trump called on Iran to spare Afkari’s life while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted on social media: "The Iranian regime’s execution of Navid Afkari is a vicious and cruel act. We condemn it in the strongest terms. It is an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime. The voices of the Iranian people will not be silenced.

Calls for Iran to be expelled from international sport

The International Olympic Committee also condemned Afkari’s execution while the World Players Association called for Iran's expulsion from world sport if the sentence was carried out.