An Iranian wrestling champion has been sentenced to death for taking part in protests against the regime in 2018.
Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed two death sentences for Navid Afkari along with six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes, according to Persian-language broadcaster Iran International.
His brother, Vahid Afkari, received a prison sentence of 54 years, while a third brother, Habib, was given 27 years and both will receive 74 lashes.
Iran’s judiciary charged the brothers with 20 different crimes including ‘attending illegal gatherings, assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security, and insulting the supreme leader.’
Iran’s Supreme Court confirmed two death sentences for wrestler Navid Afkari (pictured) along with six years and six months in prison and 74 lashes
Navid (left) and his brother Vahid (right) were sentenced by Iran’s supreme court along with a third brother, Habib
A source close to the brothers said Navid, a wrestling champion with no criminal record, and his siblings had joined in the protests ‘so the judiciary deemed the participation of all three brothers as the organisation of a group’.
It is not clear why two death sentences were handed down to the same person.
Iran International reported that Navid and Vahid Afkari were severely tortured to give confessions.
The US government made similar claims, alleging that ‘Khamenei’s thugs tortured Navid to the point that he confessed to fake crimes’.
‘Those who were not satisfied with trampling on Navid’s human dignity have now sentenced him to death,’ a Persian-language statement said.
The court even heard testimony from witnesses who described the beatings and torture, it is claimed, but judges ignored it.
An Iranian opposition group quoted their mother Bahieh Namjou as saying the brothers had been arrested by plain-clothes officers without a warrant.
British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi pleaded with Iran not to execute the brothers, saying: ‘Champion wrestler Navid Afkari has been sentenced to death for participating in anti-government protests in Iran.
‘Those close to him have said he was subjected to a forced confession under torture. Stop executions in Iran.’
According to Amnesty International, Iran is already the world’s second-most prolific user of the death penalty after China, with at least 251 executions in 2019.
Amnesty said some people were executed in public, while several of the condemned prisoners were under 18 at the time of the alleged crime.
The human rights charity also alleged there were ‘systematic violations of fair trial rights’ in Iran.
Last month Iran’s judiciary halted the executions of three young men convicted in connection with November’s mass anti-government protests.
The #Don’tExecute campaign erupted after three men – Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi and Mohammad Rajabi – were sentenced to death on charges of taking part in arson and vandalism during the 2019 protests.
An Iranian opposition group quoted their mother Bahieh Namjou (pictured) as saying the brothers had been arrested by plain-clothes officers without a warrant
Sadeq Saba, the editor of Iran International, said: ‘The Islamic Republic has witnessed many protest movements over the years, most recently in mid-November over petrol price rises.
‘Security forces brutally killed hundreds of people and detained thousands more. These movements have become more radical, more frequent and have spread across Iran.’
He added: ‘In response to internal and external pressures, the regime has adopted a bunker mentality, evolving into an authoritarian-theocratic centralised state presided over by an all-powerful supreme leader with no respect for constitutionalism.’
Many of the recent protests have been set off by economic hardships, in a country where many people have struggled to make ends meet because of US sanctions.
Further protests erupted last year after an announcement that gas prices would rise by as much as 200 per cent.
The US drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in January 2020 initially led to an outpouring of grief and nationalism in Iran.
But the public anger turned against the regime after blundering Revolutionary Guards shot down a passenger plane with dozens of Iranians on board.
The stand-off with the US eventually calmed, and political tensions were soon superseded by the coronavirus crisis in which Iran was an early hotspot.