May 3, 2021
Iranian security forces have threatened to kill the brother of Navid Afkari, an Iranian wrestling champion whose execution for participating in anti-regime demonstrations caused global uproar.
“After executing the innocent athlete Navid Afkari for protesting, authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran have now threatened to execute his jailed brother, Vahid Afkari, if he doesn’t agree to make forced confessions. His life is in danger,” said Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian human rights campaigner and founder of the United for Navid Campaign.
The threats against Vahid were also reported by US news organization Voice of America.
Navid was arrested in 2018 alongside his brothers Vahid and Habib for their participation in anti-regime protests.
Tehran claimed that Navid had murdered a police officer — something he vehemently denied until his execution in 2020.
“There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty,” said Navid, 27, shortly before his hanging, adding that the regime’s judges “are looking for a neck for their rope.”
News of his killing, despite direct appeals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for mercy, was heavily condemned by sports organizations, governments, dissident groups and the wider public.
Vahid was sentenced to 54 years behind bars, and Habib was handed a 27-year sentence for their role in the demonstrations.
Both were also given an additional punishment of 74 lashes, and have faced torture and isolation while in jail.
The trio’s fourth brother Saeed tweeted that his brothers have complained of “solitary confinement, beatings, and also the threat of murder by two high-ranking officials of the Islamic Republic.”
He added: “After 228 days, an informal interrogation session was held only in Vahid’s presence. The interrogator did not give permission to access the file, to the video of the beatings, to the medical jurisprudence report of the injuries, and the solitary confinement still continues.”
Iran has long faced heavy criticism for its opaque and unfair judicial system. Rights group Amnesty International has said detainees face torture and solitary confinement in efforts to extract forced confessions, and defendants are regularly denied access to lawyers, among other abusive practices.
In April, a group of athletes and human rights activists petitioned the IOC to sanction Iran for breaching “Olympic values.”
Among those campaigning for sanctions is the United for Navid Campaign, which has criticized Tehran for forcing its athletes to intentionally lose games that would set up meetings against Israeli athletes.
An IOC spokesman said it “takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues.”