FIFPRO ‘sickened’ by Iranian footballer death sentence reports

The Iranian judiciary has said no sentence has been issued as footballers call for a stop to executions.

woman life freedom written on a flag
The ongoing protests in Iran have affected the country's football scene, with protests at stadiums during the World Cup, and statements from several footballers [File: Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

Tehran, Iran – The international football players’ union FIFPRO has said that it is “sickened” by reports that an Iranian footballer has been sentenced to execution, despite a denial from the Iranian judiciary.

“FIFPRO is shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution in Iran after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country,” the federation said in a tweet, calling for the removal of his punishment.

The call comes after reports from foreign-based news outlets that the 26-year-old Iranian league footballer could be at risk of execution in connection with the death of several security officers during unrest amid the country’s continuing protests.

But a senior judiciary official has denied that Nasr Azadani has received a death sentence.

Asadollah Jafari, the judiciary chief of Isfahan, where the footballer was arrested, said on Sunday that an indictment carrying the charge of “accessory to moharebeh” has been communicated to him, but a sentence is pending further investigation by a Revolutionary Court.

Moharebeh, or “waging war against God”, is a charge that carries the death penalty.

After a preliminary sentence is issued, it can be appealed at the Supreme Court.

According to Jafari, the footballer was arrested on November 16, two days after three members of the security forces were killed.

The official said Nasr Azadani is one of nine suspects and claimed security camera footage shows he was a member of an “armed group that operated in a networked and organised manner with the intent of fighting the basis of the Islamic Republic establishment”.

After reports of Nasr Azadani’s potential execution sentence emerged, a number of prominent current and former footballers expressed solidarity and called for executions to end.

Alireza Beiranvand, the current goalkeeper of the national football team, and former Team Melli captain Masoud Shojaei were among the footballers to use their social media platforms to join those calls.

Iran has so far executed at least two people arrested during unrest linked with the protests that began in mid-September, after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who was arrested by the country’s morality police for alleged non-compliance with a mandatory dress code for women.

Rights groups have warned more executions could be carried out soon.

Majidreza Rahnavard, who was convicted of killing two members of the security forces in Mashhad, was publicly executed on Monday, with the judiciary releasing images of him being hanged from a crane as a crowd watched on.

Both Rahnavard and Mohsen Shekari, who had been executed days earlier, were convicted of moharebeh, a sentence which had been confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Speaking after Rahnavard’s execution on Monday, judiciary chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei defended the judiciary’s actions, saying judges should ignore the criticism.

“We must do our work while considering the law and considering God as our witness, and not in the least be concerned about the reproach of those who reproach,” he said in a meeting with other judiciary officials.

Amnesty International said Rahnavard’s execution shows the Iranian judiciary is a “tool of repression sending individuals to the gallows to spread fear and exacting revenge on protesters daring to stand up to the status quo”.

The European Union imposed new sanctions on Tehran on Monday for its response to the protests and for sending drones to Russia.

Tehran had blacklisted more EU and United Kingdom officials earlier the same day in relation to their support for the protests.

Source: Al Jazeera