International Olympic Committee ‘shocked’ by execution of Iranian wrestler

IOC president says it is ‘deeply upsetting’ that appeals by committee and athletes around the world failed to sway Tehran from putting Navid Afkari to death

Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari (screenshot)
Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari (screenshot)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The International Olympic Committee said it was “shocked” by Saturday’s execution of a young Iranian wrestler over the murder of a public sector worker during anti-government protests in 2018.

Navid Afkari was executed at a prison in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz, something the IOC said was “very sad news.”

“The IOC is shocked by this announcement today,” it added.

IOC 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, while respecting the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach attends a press conference closing an Olympic session in Lausanne, on January 11, 2020. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

“It is deeply upsetting that the pleas of athletes from around the world and all the behind-the-scenes work of the IOC, together with the NOC of Iran, United World Wrestling and the National Iranian Wrestling Federation, did not achieve our goal.

“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Navid Afkari.”

Afkari, 27, had been found guilty of “voluntary homicide” for stabbing to death Hossein Torkman, a water department worker, on August 2, 2018, according to the Iranian judiciary.

Shiraz and several other urban centers across the Islamic Republic had been the scene that day of anti-government protests and demonstrations over economic and social hardship.

Reports published abroad say Afkari was condemned on the basis of confessions aired on television after being extracted under torture, prompting online campaigns for his release.

Afkari’s case had drawn the attention of a social media campaign that portrayed him and his brothers as victims targeted over participating in protests against Iran’s Shiite theocracy in 2018.

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