Iranian wrestling champion executed despite international protest

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Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari (27) was executed on Saturday after a conviction for stabbing a security guard to death during the anti-government protests in 2018, local media report.

Confession made on TV

The wrestler took part in the massive anti-government protests of 2018 during the incident, where Iranians took to the streets out of dissatisfaction with the regime and the economic slump. According to his lawyer, family and activists, Afakari made a false confession after being severely tortured in custody.

His conviction sparked worldwide outrage, including among Iranians on social media and human rights organizations. Last month, US President Donald Trump called on Iran not to execute Afakari.

The International Olympic Commission (IOC) spoke of “very sad news” and said President Thomas Bach had asked Iranian leaders for mercy last week, “with respect for Iranian sovereignty”.

Afkari has been convicted of stabbing to death Hassan Turkman, a water company security guard, and other charges. Iran’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in late August.

Iranian state television broadcasted a video last week in which Afkari appeared to plead guilty for killing Turkman. He is said to have made a stabbing movement on the images and described that he stabbed Turkman “twice and then again”.

In captivity, Afkari was given alcohol poured into his nose, beaten with sticks all over his body and suffocated with a plastic bag, he wrote in a handwritten letter according to Human Rights Watch.

The 2018 protest that Afkari and his brothers took part in was at various times violently suppressed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

His brothers Vahid and Habib were also arrested after the protests and were sentenced to 56 years and 27 years in prison respectively, plus 74 lashes each, writes. Amnesty International.

Iran has a long history of similar forced confessions, according to human rights organizations. Images of these confessions are more often broadcast on state television.

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