Iran executes champion wrestler who was 'tortured into confessing to murder'

Iran has executed a champion wrestler who claims he was tortured into making a false confession in a case that sparked an international outcry.

Navid Afkari, 27, was hanged after he was convicted of stabbing to death a security guard during anti-government protests in August 2018, state media said on Saturday.

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 the southern Fars province as saying.

Afkari 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 the torture claims. 

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi on Saturday called on demonstrators to take to the streets to protest against the execution.

A global union representing 85,000 athletes called on Tuesday for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari. The IOC has faced pressure to kick Iran out of the Olympics.

US President Donald Trump also called on Iran this month not to execute the wrestler, and international sport bodies such as FIFA urged the Middle Eastern country to spare the prisoner’s life.

The execution was carried out at Adel Abad Prison in Shiraz.

A spokesperson for the Iran Human Rights Monitor (IHRM) said: “Navid Afkari was executed this morning in Adelabad Prison of Shiraz.

“His family were told that he had been hanged.

“Despite widespread international outcries in Iran and around the world to stop his execution, the Iranian regime hanged the young Iran protester in a bid to prevent further protests against the regime.

“Navid Afkari, 27, was a wrestling champion who had never hurt anybody.”

Afkari was accused of killing Hasan Turkman, an agent with Basij, a wing of the Revolutionary Guard, during the August 2018 protests in Shiraz.

In September 2019, Afkari filed a complaint with Iran’s judiciary saying he was forced to give a false confession during “the most severe physical and psychological torture” as he spent almost 50 days in police custody.

In an open letter, he wrote: “They put a plastic bag over my head and almost suffocated me.

“Using batons and other hard objects, they beat hard on my hands, abdomen, and legs.

“They used foul language and insulted me frequently.

“They tied me tight and poured alcohol down my nostrils.”

According to the IHRM, Afkari had said the Coroner’s Office in Shiraz examined his injuries that were caused under torture.

He said in an audio file shared on August 30 this year “The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate (the acts of torture)…

“There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I am guilty.

“But they did not want to hear our voice.

“Then, I learned that they are looking for another head to hang from their noose.”

An IHRM spokesperson added: “Iran Human Rights Monitor strongly denounces the execution of Iran protester Navid Afkari and calls on international human rights organizations to take action to stop the killing of young Iranians for exercising their genuine right to freedom of expression.

“The Iranian regime must be held accountable for its mockery of justice and killing of Iran’s youth on unfounded allegations.”