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Iranian Champion Wrestler Navid Afkari Executed, Despite Outcry


Navid Afkari told his family that he was tortured into making a false confession.

Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrester convicted of murder in a case that was condemned by rights groups and U.S. President Donald Trump, has been executed, Iranian state media reported on September 12.

Afkari was convicted of killing a security guard with the government's water and sewage department in the southern city of Shiraz in 2018 during mass antigovernment protests.

Afkari had said he was tortured into making a false confession, according to his family and activists, and his attorney said there was no proof of his guilt.

Iran's judiciary denied the torture claims.

The case sparked an international outcry.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the execution of Afkari "a vicious and cruel act."

"We condemn it in the strongest terms. It is an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime," Pompeo said on Twitter.

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that it was "shocked" by Afkari's execution.

"The execution of wrestler Navid Afkari in Iran is very sad news," the statement said.

"The IOC is shocked by this announcement today," it added.

London-based rights group Amnesty International said the "secret execution" was a "horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action."

"Carrying out his death sentence with such utter disregard for the basic principles of justice further demonstrates the cruelty of the death penalty. A series of judges in different courts used forced ‘confessions’ obtained under torture to convict him, and consistently failed to investigate his complaints of torture,” Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

Many Iranians condemned his execution on social media.

Afkari's lawyer, Hassan Younessi, said on Twitter that a number of people in Shiraz were to meet on September 13 with the slain worker's family to ask for their forgiveness.

He also said that based on criminal law in Iran "the convict has a right to meet his family before the execution."

"Were you in such a hurry to carry out the sentence that you deprived Navid of his last visit?" Younessi wrote on Twitter.

A global union representing 85,000 athletes on September 8 called for Iran's expulsion from world sport if it executed Afkari.

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

"Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai, whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets. They were protesting the 'country’s worsening economic situation and inflation," Trump wrote in a September 3 Twitter post.

Afkari was a national champion in wrestling, which is a widely popular sport with a long history in Iran.

Afkari's brothers, Vahid and Habib, were sentenced to 54 and 27 years, respectively, in prison in the same case, rights activists have said.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and dpa

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