Navid Afkari, a wrestler from Shiraz arrested during protests in August 2018, has been executed in Iran.
Afkari was handed down two death sentences: one for the alleged murder of a Shiraz intelligence agency official, and a second for moharebeh, or “waging war on God,” for taking part in protests. The murder charge was believed to be fabricated, not least because it was based on forced confessions, and there was insufficient evidence that Afkari had even participated in the demonstrations.
The execution was carried out on the morning of September 12, despite the family of the man who was killed, Hassan Torkaman, expressing a willingness to pardon him. Authorities carried out the execution before the Torkaman and Afkari families were able to meet.
Under sharia and Iranian law, if the family of a murder victim agrees to forgive and pardon his or her alleged killer, the death sentence can be commuted and replaced with a lesser sentence.
Hojatoleslam Kazem Mousavi, the Chief Justice of Fars Province, and Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Republic's judiciary, confirmed the execution. It contradicted reports that the Torkaman family had pardoned Afkari, saying he had been executed at Adelabad prison in Shiraz at the insistence of the family following what the outlet described as “legal formalities."
But lawyer Hassan Younesi and journalist and human rights activist Mehdi Mahmoudian both said on Twitter that the family of Hassan Torkaman, a member of the Shiraz local Basij, the volunteer wing of the Revolutionary Guards and an employee at the city's water organization, “had been willing to negotiate a pardon."
Younesi tweeted that the victim's family had an appointment to meet with Shiraz-based charity groups on Sunday, September 13 and discuss the pardon. Mahmoudian wrote that he was preparing to travel with Navid Afkari’s brother Saeed to meet with the victim's family, when the news of the execution surfaced.
Global Support to Save Navid's Life
Human rights activists and athletes from around the world had pleaded with the Iranian authorities to spare his life. The international wrestling community had been particularly vocal, and a group of Swedish politicians also appealed to the Iranian government.
Navid Afkari and his brothers Vahid and Habib were arrested for allegedly taking part in protests against rising prices in August 2018. The brothers have been given sentences of 54 years and six months in prison and 74 lashes and 27 years and three months in prison and 74 lashes, respectively.
Navid Afkari was reportedly tortured and authorities threatened his family. He had admitted his guilt for the murder of Torkaman, but later retracted his confession, saying he had been pressured and tortured. Despite this, he was sentenced to death on the sharia charge of qisas, or retribution.
The International Olympic Committee and FIFA had shown their support, with FIFA tweeting: “FIFA shares the concerns of @iocmedia and many others, and very much hopes that the life of sportsman Navid Afkari will be spared.”
Others who spoke out in support of Navid Afkari included Sydney Olympic freestyle wrestling champion and national team coach Brandon Sly, German Frank Schaftler, a three-time world wrestling gold medalist, the chairman of the United World Wrestling Scientific Commission and American wrestler Sally Roberts, CEO of sports rights organization Wrestle Like A Girl.
Support also came from Mehdi Zeidvand, former member of the Iranian national Greco-Roman wrestling team, Arvin Bagheri, former captain of the Iranian national youth karate team, Javad Mahjoub, Iranian judo champion, Hassan Ali Mohammadi, former coach of Iran’s national kickboxing team, Ehsan Rajabi, judo champion, Eshagh Ghavidel, bodybuilding champion, Salar Gholami, former captain of the national boxing team, Sardar Pashaei, former coach of the national Greco-Roman wrestling team, Mohammad Taher Hosseini Afshar, retired member of Iran’s national rowing team, Iranian taekwondo athlete Kasra Mehdipournejad, Anshan Khosravi from Sweden’s national karate team, and British national track and field athlete Amir Kamali.
The day before the execution was carried out, Shiraz forensic officials visited Adelabad Prison to assess claims that Afkari had been mistreated, and concluded that his body showed signs of torture.