September 20, 2020

Persian News

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Iran Executes Wrestler Accused of Murder After He Took Part in Protests

Iran has executed a 27-year-old wrestler accused of murder after he took part in antigovernment protests two years ago, the state news media reported on Saturday.

The wrestler, Navid Afkari, was executed on Saturday morning at a prison in the southern city of Shiraz, judicial officials were quoted as telling state media. He was accused of fatally stabbing a water-utility worker amid the unrest in his home city, Shiraz, which was a center of antigovernment protests that swept the country in 2018.

He was convicted and given two death sentences.

International sports groups had recently mounted a last-ditch campaign for clemency. The charges against him were met with widespread skepticism in Iran and abroad, with many government critics saying he was being used as an example to silence dissent.

In an audiotape smuggled from prison, Mr. Afkari said he had been tortured until he falsely confessed to the crime.

In the days leading up to the execution, Sally Roberts, a former Olympic wrestler who helped bring Mr. Afkari’s case to world attention, said she had heard from the athlete’s mother that all communication with him had been cut off and that he had been moved to an undisclosed area.

The 2018 protests in Iran extended from the heartland to the capital, set off by grievances like a weak economy, strict Islamic rules and water shortages. Mr. Afkari and two brothers were said to have been among those demonstrating in Shiraz.

Not long after, plainclothes security agents came to the family home and seized Mr. Afkari and one of his brothers, their mother, Bahieh Namjoo, said in a recent video posted on social media. The authorities later arrested the other brother, and both brothers have been sentenced to decades in prison.

“They tortured my sons to confess against Navid,” Ms. Namjoo said in the video. “There was one sham trial. My children could not defend themselves.”

She pleaded for international help.

Original News : https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/12/world/middleeast/iran-wrestler-navid-afkari.html

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