LONDON: Tehran’s execution of champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari has been widely condemned by rights groups, politicians and sports associations.
The 27-year-old was hanged on Saturday after being found guilty of the murder of a security officer during anti-government protests in 2018.
The “secret execution” of Afkari, “without prior notice to him, his family or lawyer, after a grossly unfair trial, is a horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action,” Amnesty International said in a statement issued to Arab News.
In the run up to his execution, he “was subjected to a shocking catalogue of human rights violations and crimes, including enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty added.
Throughout his detention, he was denied access to a lawyer and tortured into making forced confessions that were then broadcast on Iranian state TV.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said Afkari had continued to seek justice up until his sentence was carried out.
“This young man desperately sought help in court to receive a fair trial and prove his innocence,” she added.
“Leaked voice recordings of him in court expose how his pleas for judges to investigate his torture complaints and bring another detainee who had witnessed his torture to testify were unlawfully and cruelly ignored.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) also condemned the execution, calling it a “cruel act” that “shows an utter disregard for the most fundamental human rights norms.”
HRW denounced Iran’s judicial system, and said Afkari’s death sentence was emblematic of a “systematic pattern in which Iranian authorities disregard torture allegations and use coerced confessions in trial proceedings.”
Afkari’s hanging also drew condemnation from US politicians across the political spectrum. On Twitter, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden described it as “cruel” and “a travesty,” and urged Iran to “free its other political prisoners.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the execution was a “vicious and cruel act,” and “an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime.” He added: “The voices of the Iranian people will not be silenced.”
Various international sports bodies have also been vocal in their condemnation. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was “shocked” by the “very sad news.”
It added that IOC President Thomas Bach had appealed directly to Iran’s president and its supreme leader to spare Afkari’s life, and that it was “deeply upsetting” that his execution was carried out regardless.
Geneva-based United World Wrestling, the governing body for amateur wrestling worldwide, said it was “deeply upsetting” that Tehran had ignored the “pleas of athletes from around the world.”