Iran Executes Wrestler Navid Afkari, Who Protested Against the Government

Iran has executed Navid Afkari, a national champion wrestler who protested against the government in 2018. He was sentenced to death by the government for the alleged murder of a security guard. However, Afkari said that he had been tortured into making a confession.

According to BBC News, Amnesty International released leaked audio from Afkari. "If I am executed, I want you to know that an innocent person, even though he tried and fought with all his strength to be heard, was executed," he said. State media said that Afkari was executed by hanging in the southern city of Shiraz. His two brothers, Vahid and Habib, were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison, per human rights activists in Iran.

"The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate [the acts of torture]," Afkari said after the Medical Examiner's Office in Shiraz examined his injuries. "There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I'm guilty. But they don't want to listen to us. I realized they are looking for a neck for their rope."

Prior to Afkari's execution, people from around the world called for Iran to stop the execution. A union that represents 85,000 athletes worldwide took part while the World Players Association said that Afkari was "unjustly targeted" for taking part in the protests. President Donald Trump also called for mercy and said that the wrestler's sole act was "an anti-government demonstration on the streets."

According to Afkari's attorney, Hassan Younesi, there was no video showing the wrestler's involvement in the security guard's death. Additionally, he said that the footage from a security camera used in the case was actually from an hour before the murder. The official news agency of Iran's judiciary, Mizan, had previously said that "a review of the closed-circuit camera footage from a street where the killer was pursued led to the arrest of Navid Afkari as a suspect in this case."

Before Afkari's execution, Iran denied the torture accusations. However, audio files released in late August told a different story. Vahid said that he was in a coma in the Namazi Hospital for three days. He then detailed the various means of torture.

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"Then they tortured me and put a plastic bag over my head," he said. "They beat me with chains for hours and struck the bottom of my feet with a baton. They would pee on the floor and force me to walk on it. They threatened to arrest my mother and sister.

"From the very beginning, the victims' parents denied knowing us. I told the judge to present a witness. If there's proof of my presence on my phone or on a camera footage, show it. If a murder weapon has been uncovered at our home, show it… when I said these things the judge only laughed and made fun of us."