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Iran executes wrestler accused of murder

Navid Afkari, a 27-year-old Greco-Roman wrestler, had said he was tortured into making a false confession
Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari

Reuters   |   London   |   Published 13.09.20, 04:45 AM

Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari was executed on Saturday after being convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018, state media said, in a case that has sparked international outcry.

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.

Afkari 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.

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.

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. US President Donald Trump also called on Iran this month not to execute the wrestler.

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 US and Israel.

Iranian state TV aired a video last week in which Afkari appeared to confess to Turkman’s killing.

It also showed what appeared to be written confessions by Afkari.

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