Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari’s execution over 2018 security guard killing sparks outcry

By: |
September 12, 2020 7:15 PM

Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler, had said he was tortured into making a false confession, according to his family and activists, and his attorney says there is no proof of his guilt. Iran’s judiciary has denied Afkari’s claims.

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. The case of 27-year-old Navid Afkari has drawn the attention of a social media campaign that portrays him and his brothers as victims targeted over participating in protests against Iran’s Shiite theocracy in 2018. (Courtesy: AP, File)

Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari was executed on Saturday after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018, state media said, in a case that has sparked international outcry.

Afkari was executed “this morning after legal procedures were carried out at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim,” the media quoted the head of the justice department in southern Fars province, Kazem Mousavi, as saying.

Afkari was convicted of killing Hassan Turkman, a water company security guard, and other charges. Iran’s Supreme Court rejected a review of the case in late August.

Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler, had said he was tortured into making a false confession, according to his family and activists, and his attorney says there is no proof of his guilt. Iran’s judiciary has denied Afkari’s claims.

Afkari’s attorney accused authorities of denying his client a family visit before the execution, as required by law.

“Were you in so much hurry to execute the sentence that you also deprived Navid of a last meeting?,” Hassan Younesi said on Twitter.

There was no immediate reaction by Iranian officials to the attorney’s accusation.

A global union representing 85,000 athletes called on Tuesday for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari.

Afkari’s case had sparked an outcry from Iranians on social media and human rights groups. U.S. President Donald Trump also called on Iran this month not to execute the wrestler.

The killing of the security guard took place during some of the worst unrest in a decade over economic hardships. Iran’s clerical rulers have blamed the street protests what they call “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign foes – the United States and Israel.

Iranian state television aired a video last week in which Afkari appeared to confess to Turkman’s killing. 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.

“I hit twice, once and then again,” Afkari was shown saying with a stabbing gesture during a police reconstruction of the killing.

Human rights groups frequently accuse Iran’s state media of airing coerced confessions. Iran denies the accusation.

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