Iran executes champion wrestler who was ‘tortured into confessing to murder’

Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been executed following his conviction for stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018, according to state media.

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 on Saturday, September 12.

In a case that sparked international outcry, the wrestler 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.

Amnesty International had warned on Friday that Afkari was at "imminent risk of being executed in secret", adding that Afkari made a brief phone call to his family on September 6 to say he was being held at Adelabad Prison, which has "high security and harsh conditions".

It had called on UN human rights bodies and EU member states to "urgently intervene" to help "save Navid Afkari from execution".

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.

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

The International Olympic Committee said the execution of Afkari was "very sad news", adding in a statement that IOC President Thomas Bach had written this week to Iranian leaders asking for mercy for him, while respecting Iran's sovereignty.

A global union representing 85,000 athletes had 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.

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US President Donald Trump also called on Iran this month not to execute the wrestler, tweeting: "To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man's life, and not execute him."

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, a national champion wrestler, was accused of killing security guard Hassan Turkman during the August 2018 protests in Shiraz. In a report on its website, the IHRM described Turkman as an agent with Basij.

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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