Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari was executed in Iran on Saturday, according to the Iranian state agency IRNA, despite a prominent international campaign demanding that the sentence not be carried out.
According to IRNA, the 27-year-old was executed in a prison in Shiraz. He was sentenced to death in connection with the murder of Iranian government security officer Hasan Turkman for water and sanitation during protests in Shiraz in August 2018, according to Iranian state media Mizan.
The Iranian spokesman for the judiciary, Gholam Hossein Esmaeili, was quoted by the Tehran municipal newspaper Hamshari on Wednesday as saying that Afkari had been sentenced to the Islamic condemnation of Ghesas (qisas) or “retribution in kind”.
According to Hamshari, Esmaeili said Afkari was obliged to reassure the victim’s family by restitution. If he was unable to do so, the justice system would be forced to enforce the death sentence, as the case had already been reviewed by the Supreme Court and the courts said he had already confessed to the killing of Hassan Turkman.
Irna reported on Saturday that Afkari was executed after the victim’s family refused to forgive him and allow him to pay restitution.
The World Soccer Federation, an international body representing professional athletes, had protested against the verdict and called on Iran to threaten exclusion from international sports, including the Olympic movement, if the execution was carried out.
“Navid was one of thousands of Iranian citizens who participated in spontaneous demonstrations against economic hardship and political oppression in Iran that year,” according to an EPA statement. “However, he was wrongly targeted by the Iranian authorities, who want to set an example for a popular, prominent sportsman and intimidate others who would dare to exercise their human right to participate in a peaceful protest.
The EPA said in its statement that Afkari was twice sentenced to death after being tortured to make a false confession.
In response to the protests, Esmaeili told the Tehran newspaper that the campaign to stop the execution prompted the judiciary to make a video confession and hand over the reenactments carried out by Afkari herself to Iranian state television IRIB.
The Afkari case also aroused interest outside the world of sports. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for international intervention and a new trial.
The American President Donald Trump intervened last week and called on Iranian leaders to spare Afkari’s life. “I have heard that Iran is looking for a great and popular wrestler, 27-year-old Navid Afkari, whose only act was an anti-government demonstration in the streets. They protested against the “deteriorating economic situation and inflation in the country,” the trumpet chirped.
“For the leaders of Iran, I would very much appreciate it if you would spare the life of this young man and not execute him. “Thank you,” he added.