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Navid Afkari

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Navid Afkari جهان پهلوان نوید افکاری
Navid Afkari.jpg
Personal information
Birth nameNavid Afkaari Sangari
Born1993
Shiraz, Iran
DiedSeptember 12, 2020(2020-09-12) (aged 26–27)
Adel-Abaad prison, Shiraz, Iran
Resting placeSangar, Sepidan
NationalityIranian
OccupationWrestler
Years active2005–2015
Criminal charge(s)Insulting the Supreme Leader, Spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, Hirabah, disturbing public order, organizing a group, participating in protests, Murder of security agent[1]
Criminal penaltytwo capital punishments
Criminal statusExecuted (supposedly)

Navid Afkari (Persian: نوید افکاری‎; 1993 – September 12, 2020)[2][3][4] was an Iranian wrestler who was sentenced to death and executed by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran for protesting against the regime during 2018 unrests in Iran, as well as the alleged murder of an undercover security guard from the IRGC[5] that occurred during the 2018 Iranian protests.[6][7] His brothers Vahid and Habib were sentenced to 54 and 27 years, respectively, in prison in the same case.[8] While Afkari initially accepted the murder charge, he would later state that it had been a forced confession, with him having been tortured into making a false confession[9]. Despite Islamic Republic's efforts to portray Navid's execution as a retribution for the deceased security guard, the murder charge was never proven[10][11][12][13][14][15]. Navid's death was followed by worldwide condemnations to the regime, ranging from individual to national statements; including a statement released by the EU[16][17], the International Olympic Committee IOC[18], and individuals like UFC president Dana White and Reza Pahlavi, the last crown prince of Iran[19].

Afkari was executed in the early morning hours of September 12, 2020 in the Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz.[20][21][8]

Wrestling career

Afkari was a national champion in wrestling.[22]

Charges

Navid was among the people who took to the streets during the 2018 protests in Iran, opposing the totalitarian dictatorship of Khamenei and the ever-worsening living conditions nation-wide. He was charged with multiple offenses after his sudden arrest shortly after the protests. Among his charges were "insulting the supreme leader", "waging war against God (aka. moharebeh)", and the alleged case of Hasan Torkman's murder.

Torkman was a secret security agent of IRGC which were tasked with silencing the protests and after his death he was buried as a "martyr" by the regime, signifying his position.[23] Hasan Torkman was also working as a security guard for Water and Sewage company of Shiraz.[24]

The murder charge was strongly refuted by Navid. As it turned out, there was no evidence linking him to that case. The court sentencing was influenced by two sources that they claim it showed Navid as the murderer.

For one, they used the CCTV footage of a street near where Torkman was found dead; The footage was from more than some two hours before Torkman's death and henceforth, one cannot base that as a piece of evidence for finding someone guilty of murder[25]. In it, there is nothing out of the ordinary; Navid was walking on the sidewalk while talking on the phone with someone[26]. In his hearings, Navid had pointed out to the court that let the mentioned video be shown here so that we can infer my guilt, if that is the case; however, the head-judge Mehrdad Tahmtan was ignorant of his request[27]. To be exact, no footage from the moment when the felony took place exists[28][29].

In addition to the CCTV footage, the court used eye-witness accounts as the other evidence for linking Navid with Torkman's murder case. The accounts were later dropped by the people that initially testified against Navid. One testified under pressure, another said that their testimony was not right or accurate and another one mentioned that they had met Navid for the first time during the court.[30][31]

Despite all the flaws in the murder case with no actual footage of the murder scene and the false testimonies, the court persisted with holding Navid accountable.

For his involvement in the protests, and further the alleged murder case, the court led by the head judge, Mehrdad Tahmtan[32][33], sentenced Navid Afkari with two capital punishments.

After that Navid found this ruling unjust, he voiced his concerns. In one of his voice calls from the Adel-Abaad prison he said:

My audience are noble people that have a bit of honor in them. Your complacency means rooting for oppression and the oppressor. It means supporting the execution of an innocent. Means I will be getting closer, step-by-step, to the hanging platform. [34]

He insisted his innocence stating:

People! It is only logical that I will fight for my life; and as per the evidence, all clues are an affirmation to my innocence. All the evidence that we have collected and everything that I am saying right now, is only here to let you know that if I ever get executed, in the 21st century and with all the human right organizations, the UN or security council or the whatever else, an innocent human being, which had tried to the best of his might and fought, to have his voice heard, was hanged.[35][36]

He warned people about the systemic corruption infesting the judiciary system of Iran and how innocent lives get taken by their unjust rulings, stating:

Know & be aware that if the innocent me gets executed, this won't be the first victim of the unfairness of this so-called 'justice-oriented' unjust court".[37]

Forced Confessions

While Navid initially issued a confession accepting the murder charge, he would later take it back stating he had been tortured into making a false confession.[38][22] During the hearings in the privately held court, Navid stated:

I told the inspector that neither do I know the secret agent (that has been killed), nor have I heard his name! But under torture, and to save my family, and for Vahid (one of his imprisoned brothers), I gave them what they wanted.[31]

In his voice-call from the prison, he clarified that he had been indeed tortured, to wrongly confess about murdering someone which he had not. He comes to the realization that this whole ordeal is not actually about the murder and rather the regime's irritation because of his participation in the protests, as the last thing they wanted to see, was a public figure in the protests alongside the people rallying against the dictatorship[39]. His words are as follows:

Once I had been freed from the pressure of solitary confinement, the basement, and the tortures, once I stepped back onto the prison, I immediately wrote to the judicial offices and filed my complaint (against their use of torture) and screamed (my innocence); that I am not a murderer. I requested them to take me to the forensics bureau (for medical examinations of his scars). Per their report and eye-witness account (of my torture) and other evidence, it was made clear that I had been tortured. No matter the countless times I wrote (and pleaded) that all my confessions were obtained under (pressure and) torture; or how there is not a single shred of evidence in this damned case that could prove my guilt, but they did not want to hear our voice. I figured they were looking for a neck for their noose.[40][41]


His parents sent a letter to the chief justice of Iran claiming their son endured torture.[42]

Death Sentence

Afkari was given two death sentences for his charges.[22]

According to human rights activists in Iran, Afkari's brothers Vahid and Habib were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison for charges stemming from the same case.[22]

Reactions

Afkari's death sentence sparked global outrage and calls to overturn his execution.[24]

Notable figures, including from U.S. President Donald Trump, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and UFC President Dana White, pled for Iran not to execute Afkari.[43][8][44][45] Trump tweeted on September 4, 2020:

Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai [sic], whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets. They were protesting the “country’s worsening economic situation and inflation”. To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you![46]

U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Morgan Ortagus, tweeted: "We join the world in outrage at the Iranian regime's death sentence for Navid Afkari, who was tortured into giving a false confession after participating in peaceful protests in 2018. The regime also tortured his two brothers and sentenced them to decades in prison. Let them go!"[8]

The World Players Association urged for the Iranian judiciary to issue a stay of execution.[24]

Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency dismissed Trump's tweet in a feature story, saying that US sanctions had hurt Iranian hospitals amid the pandemic, "Trump is worried about the life of a murderer while he puts many Iranian patients' lives in danger by imposing severe sanctions," the agency said.[47]

This execution is not the first execution of an Iranian athlete, In August 1988, Foruzan Abdi also was executed in Evin prison.[48]

Death and Burial

The vigil held for Navid at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto

On September 12, it was announced that Navid had been executed.[22][43] No one exactly knows how this was done. His burial was done at night-time with high-security presence and only Navid's immediate family members. His execution was rushed, and that raised a lot of speculations as to why that might've been, especially with a massive global outcry suggesting to put an end to the execution.

According to the lawyers, his execution was unlawfull[49]. Given the pieces of evidence, the execution of Navid Afkari cannot be considered the execution of a judicial verdict, and it is more of a "heinous crime" apparently aimed at poisoning the protesters and turning a blind eye to international public opinion[50].

Officials say that Navid was hanged; however, there is a lot of controversies regarding that narrative due to multiple anomalies. For one, Navid was (supposedly) executed in the month of Muharram, during which the executions never take place as it is haram and forbidden to kill[51] by sharia law, also written in the constitution of the Islamic Republic.

Furthermore, apparently the family of Torkman was about to agree to drop their call for qisas. They were to have a meeting to discuss the matter with the other side the day Navid was announced dead. His brother receives the news of Navid's passing through a call shortly before his plane was due to depart for Shiraz in order to go and visit the Torkmans. And so that adds to the lead that this was politically-motivated murder of Navid Afkari by the regime, as had the Torkman family would have dropped their call for qisas, Navid should have been spared.[51]

Moreover and based on the law, any prisoner on the death row can have a meeting with their family the day prior to their execution. Also their family would be notified when their child is a day or two away from execution. Not only Navid was stripped off of his right to see his mom or dad, but also their family did not know either that their son was about to get executed.[51] It just happened so abruptly. The last voice call from Navid was made at night and hours before his death, during which he is completely unaware of his fate[52].

On top of all that, according to the witnesses, there were clear signs of blunt trauma on Navid's body. His face was deformed and he had a broken nose.[51] The family members were only allowed to see Navid's face and they were forbidden from seeing his body[53]. The cloth with which his body was carried to the burial was stained with blood from the inside. This begs the question as was this an actual execution by hanging or perhaps it was a mishap where Navid had been tortured to death, so officials said he was executed in order to avoid an even greater public anger[54][55][56].

Iranian diaspora held vigils in cities all around the world, notably in Toronto[57] in order to commemorate the life of Navid and also to condemn the Islamic Republic's actions in taking his life without a fair trial.

See also

References

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  56. ^ https://iranintl.com/%D8%A7%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86/%D8%AC%D8%B2%DB%8C%DB%8C%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%B2%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%B2-%D9%85%D8%B1%DA%AF-%D9%86%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%A7%D9%81%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%AF%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%84-%DA%A9%D8%B4%D8%AA%D9%87-%D8%B4%D8%AF%D9%86-%D9%86%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D8%AB%D8%B1-%D8%B4%DA%A9%D9%86%D8%AC%D9%87-%D9%82%D9%88%D8%AA-%DA%AF%D8%B1%D9%81%D8%AA
  57. ^ https://thepostmillennial.com/protestors-gather-in-toronto-to-mourn-death-of-wrestler-at-the-hands-of-iran/