Iran executes champion wrestler over killing of security agent amid violent 2018 anti-govt uprising

Iran executes champion wrestler over killing of security agent amid violent 2018 anti-govt uprising Global Look Press / Thomas Frey
Iranian athlete Navid Afkari, whose trial gained global attention and the intercession of Donald Trump, was executed over alleged complicity in murdering a member of security forces during anti-government rallies two years ago.

The execution was carried out on Saturday by judicial authorities in Adelabad prison in Shiraz, Fars province, state-affiliated media reported. Navid Afkari was executed in the morning, “after legal procedures took place at the insistence of the parents and the family of the victim,” the provincial chief justice said, cited by the Tasnim news outlet. 

The 27-year-old athlete, who won several wrestling tournaments in Iran, had been given two death sentences: one handed out by a criminal court, and one by a revolutionary court that deals with offences against the state.

The penalties were in relation to the murder of an Iranian government security agent during the massive 2018 anti-government protests in Shiraz, which saw thousands of people demonstrate against rising fuel prices and declining living standards.

In early September, the wrestler confessed to the killing in a video aired on state television, but his family claimed he was tortured into making the confession. The Iranian judiciary refuted the allegations. His brothers Vahid and Habib, who were also present at the demonstration, were sentenced to 56 and 24 years respectively in the same case, according to Amnesty International. 

Afkari’s trial garnered worldwide attention in recent weeks, with calls for mercy accompanied by outspoken criticism of the Iranian regime. US President Donald Trump was among the dignitaries who spoke in Afkari’s defense. “To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him,” he tweeted.

Members of the international sports community also pleaded with the Iranian authorities not to carry out the death sentence, among them Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. “First, he’s a human being. Second, he’s one of us. He could be any of my fighters,” he said in an online statement