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Iran executes wrestler, evoking shock and condemnation

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Protesters demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy in London on September 12, 2020 against the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz and against the Iranian government. AFP

Tehran, Iran (AFP) – Iran said it executed a wrestler Saturday for murdering a man during a wave of anti-government protests in 2018, drawing widespread condemnation and eliciting shock from the International Olympic Committee.

Navid Afkari, 27, was executed at a prison in the southern city of Shiraz, provincial prosecutor general Kazem Mousavi was quoted as saying on state television’s website.

Afkari had been found guilty of “voluntary homicide” for stabbing to death Hossein Torkman, a water department employee, on August 2, 2018, the judiciary said.

Shiraz and several other urban centres across Iran had been the scene that day of anti-government protests and demonstrations over economic and social hardship.

The International Olympic Committee said it was “shocked” by the execution and that it was “deeply upsetting” that pleas by athletes around the world and international bodies had failed to halt it.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Navid Afkari,” the IOC said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denounced a “vicious” execution.

“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,” Pompeo tweeted.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said the “secret execution” was a “horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action”.

Reports published abroad say Afkari was convicted on the basis of confessions aired on television after being extracted under torture, prompting online campaigns for his release.

Amnesty has repeatedly called on Iran to stop broadcasting videos of “confessions” by suspects, saying they “violate the defendants’ rights”.

The judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency denied the accusations.

According to Amnesty, Afkari’s two brothers Vahid and Habib are still in the same prison where he had been detained.

The death sentence had been carried out at “the insistence of the victim’s family”, said Mousavi, the prosecutor general for Fars province.

Afkari’s lawyer, Hassan Younessi, tweeted that a number of people in Shiraz were to meet on Sunday with the slain worker’s family to ask for their forgiveness.

He also said that based on criminal law in Iran “the convict has a right to meet his family before the execution.”

“Were you in such a hurry to carry out the sentence that you deprived Navid of his last visit?”

 

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