Iran’s execution of national wrestling champion Navid Afkari has drawn widespread condemnation, including from regional and world leaders who have reacted with alarm and are concerned the execution is part of Iran’s efforts to “silence opposing voices”.
Afkari was convicted of murder and executed on Saturday despite an international outcry.
His case drew attention after a social media campaign portrayed him and his brothers, who remain in prison, as victims who were targeted because they participated in protests against Iran’s Shia theocracy in 2018.
Authorities accused the 27-year-old of fatally stabbing a water supply company employee in the southern city of Shiraz amid the unrest.
On Monday, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned Germany’s envoy to “strongly protest” against the condemning of Afkari’s execution in comments on Twitter.
Earlier this month, Iran broadcast the wrestler’s televised confession. The segment resembled hundreds of other suspected coerced confessions aired over the last 10 years in the country.
The case revived a demand inside the country for Iran to stop carrying out the death penalty.
The European Union said the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment that it opposes in all cases.
Iran: 🇪🇺 condemns the execution of Navid Afkari in the strongest terms. Human rights remain a central feature in EU's engagement with 🇮🇷, also on individual cases such as this one. #DeathPenalty is cruel inhuman punishment which fails to act as deterrent. https://t.co/XrE99iJHea
— Peter Stano (@ExtSpoxEU) September 14, 2020
“The European Union is opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and cases with no exception,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Monday.
“Human rights remain a central feature of our engagement with Iran. We will continue to engage with Iranian authorities on this issue including through the local EU representation in Tehran and also on individual cases such as this recent execution.”
The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the execution “an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime”.
President Trump had pleaded for Afkari’s life earlier this month, saying his “sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets”.
The International Olympic Committee, in a statement shortly after Saturday’s execution, said it was shocked and saddened by the execution and the committee’s president, Thomas Bach, “had made direct personal appeals to the Supreme Leader and to the President of Iran this week and asked for mercy for Navid Afkari”.
When I interviewed #NavidAfkari’s mother she told me that she checked the judiciary website every day to check if her son is alive and today he’s not. She said I cannot even say the word execution. He was murdered. pic.twitter.com/kMb96uk7Ew
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) September 13, 2020
In Geneva, the UN human rights experts condemned the execution and raised the alarm that it was the latest “in a series of death penalty sentences handed down in the context of protests” in Iran.
“Such flagrant disregard for the right to life through summary executions is not only a matter of domestic concern,” said the UN experts’ statement on Monday.
“We call on the international community to react strongly to these actions by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Amnesty International named the death sentence a “horrifying travesty of justice that needs immediate international action”.
#NavidAfkari was a young man with a promising future ahead of him. Carrying out his death sentence with such utter disregard for the basic principles of justice further demonstrates the cruelty of the death penalty. https://t.co/M4qErn19Op
— Amnesty International (@amnesty) September 13, 2020