Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari executed over 2018 security guard killing

Iran executed Navid Afkari for murder – Shutterstock

Iran executed a wrestler after authorities accused him of murder during anti-governemtn protests, defying a global campaign for him to be spared the death penalty.

Navid Afkari was convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

But 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler, a national champion, insists he was forced into a confession after being tortured by security services clamping down during unrest in 2018 over economic hardship and political repression.

An international union representing 85,000 athletes had called on Tuesday for Iran’s expulsion from world sport if it executed Mr Afkari. US President Donald Trump also appealed to Iran, saying the wrestler’s “sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets”.

The International Olympic Committee said the execution of Mr 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.

“It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC… did not achieve our goal,” their statement said.

Protests against Navid Afkari's execution at the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany - Shutterstock
Protests against Navid Afkari’s execution at the Iranian embassy in Berlin, Germany – Shutterstock

According to state media, Mr Afkari was executed by hanging in the southern city of Shiraz.

Mr 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.

The killing of Hassan Turkman, a water company security guard, occurred during some of the worst unrest in a decade over economic hardships in Iran.

Iran’s rulers blamed the unrest on what they call “thugs” linked to foreign foes, the United States and Israel, and exiles.

Last week Iranian state television aired a video of Mr Afkari confessing to Mr Turkman’s killing.

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

It also displayed what appeared to be written confessions by Mr Afkari, but he said in a recording widely circulated on social media that he was forced to sign the documents.

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

Mr Afkari was a national champion in wrestling, a hugely popular sport in the country.

Related: UN rejects US bid to extend Iran arms embargo

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