Protesters demonstrate outside the Iranian embassy in London on September 12, 2020 against the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. (AFP)

By Benjamin Weinthal

 February 6, 2021

The Islamic Republic of Iran imposed yet another extrajudicial death penalty on a champion athlete last week, sparking renewed calls from sports advocacy organizations for the regime to be banned from this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Ali Mutairi, a champion boxer and popular coach, was executed in Sheiban Prison in Khuzestan Province on Jan. 28. Mutairi, 30, first endured severe torture, which led to his false confession to killing two Basij militia members in 2018, activists and family members said.

Rob Koehler, the director-general of Global Athlete, an international advocacy group for Olympic athletes, told the Washington Examiner: “The International Olympic Committee must act now. Their silence has left them complicit. Their lack of action clearly indicates they favor stakeholders over athlete rights.”

He continued: “The tragic recent execution of boxer Ali Mutairi is the third athlete in just four months that has been murdered by the Iranian government. The IOC must immediately suspend the Iran National Olympic Committee. They can no longer neglect their duty of care: Athletes’ lives are at stake.”

When asked about Koehler’s comments and whether the IOC plans to sanction Iran’s regime, a spokesperson for the IOC said, “The case of Ali Mutairi, a local boxer from Iran, is tragic. We were informed that his participation in local sports is not related in any way to the case itself. Based on this information, this case is clearly outside the IOC’s remit.”

After the execution of Mutairi, a member of Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority group, a spokeswoman for the United Nations, said, “We strongly condemn the series of executions, at least 28, since mid-December, including people from minority groups.”

She called on Iran’s clerical regime “to review his and other death-penalty cases in line with human rights law.”

A Persian-language article published by the Islamic Republic News Agency reported that “Ali Motairi, a terrorist member of the ISIS group, attacked the Basij base,” resulting in the deaths of two Basij members, the Khuzestan Justice Department said.

The Britain-based Iran International news outlet reported that local sources did not confirm the regime’s allegations that Mutairi held membership in the Islamic State.

Athleten Deutschland, the German athletic advocacy association, on Sunday urged the IOC to bar Iran’s regime from participating in the Olympics and said that United World Wrestling should impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic for hanging Navid Afkari, an apparently innocent champion Greco-Roman wrestler, in September.

“Athleten Deutschland is deeply shocked by the death of Navid Afkari. His execution must not be without consequences,” Athleten Deutschland said.

In an interview with Deutschlandfunkpublic radio on Tuesday, Maximilian Klein, a spokesman for Athleten Deutschland, said the association had long observed the situation of athletes in Iran and came to the conclusion that “there must be sanctions against the Iranian regime.”

Klein added that Iran’s regime must be banned from international sports competition, but under the condition that Iranian athletes be allowed to compete under a neutral flag and not the flag of the Islamic Republic.

Press queries were sent to Iran’s foreign ministry and U.N. mission.

Human rights activists said Mutairi was “physically and mentally tortured in the detention center of an intelligence agency, and after being transferred to Sheiban Prison, he was severely harassed in solitary confinement by prison officials,” Iran International reported in Persian.

In late January, Iran’s regime executed wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini for allegedly killing a young man during a botched burglary. The circumstances of Hosseini’s execution remain shrouded in judicial mystery because of Iran’s opaque legal proceedings.

The clerical regime tortured Afkari in August and September to frame him on a charge of killing a Basij security guard who was tracking protesters during demonstrations against the regime in 2018.

Then-presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted: “Iran’s cruel execution of Navid Afkari is a travesty. No country should arrest, torture or execute peaceful protestors or activists.”

Then-President Donald Trump tweeted about Afkari, who became a cause celebre, and urged Iran’s rulers not to execute him.

The regime hanged Afkari for his peaceful protest against regime corruption, according to Iranian human rights experts and the U.S. government.

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.