Champion wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, from Andimeshk, Khuzestan, is set to be the second wrestler executed by Iran. (YouTube)

January 14, 2021

Mounting pressure from British and American officials along with Iranian human rights groups on the International Olympic Committee and United World Wrestling has on Tuesday sparked a reaction from the powerful sports organizations after days of silence about the pending execution of a second decorated Iranian wrestler.

“The Iranian regime must be held to account for their vile human rights abuses and their attempt to cling to power through execution,” Ellie Cohanim, the State Department’s deputy special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told The Jerusalem Post.

The United Kingdom’s Lord John Mann tweeted on Tuesday: “Where is the International Olympic Committee and world wrestling on this? (among others!).”Mann also serves as independent adviser to the UK government on antisemitism.

Former acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, tweeted about the execution, saying “The Iranian Regime is feeling emboldened.”The German sports association Athleten Deutschland wrote on the micro-blog platform that “Iran has a sad and long history of persecuting athletes. Targeted executions of athletes are the appalling culmination of repeated attacks on human rights and the values ​​that underpin the international sports community.

“The Post first reported on January 9 with respect to the slated execution of the wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini on Saturday.  

The International Olympic Committee wrote the Post by email on Tuesday, stating: “The case was brought to our attention only on 9 January 2021 by media reports. We are currently still gathering information. At this stage, it appears that this a criminal case only, with no sports-related background.

”The IOC added that “So far, we have learned from the Iranian Wrestling Federation that Mehdi Ali Hosseini was a regional level wrestler, who did not participate in national or international level competitions. The IOC will not comment on this case before it has a clear picture of the situation.”United World Wrestling wrote the Post also by email on Tuesday. Gordon Templeman, a spokesman for UWW, said the “United World Wrestling was made aware of the Mehdi Ali Hosseini case on 9 January 2021 through media reports. We are currently still gathering information.

”He continued that “At this stage, it appears that this a criminal case only, with no sports-related background. So far, we have learned from the Iranian Wrestling Federation that Mehdi Ali Hosseini was a regional level wrestler, who did not participate in national or international level competitions. United World Wrestling will not comment on this case before it has a clear picture of the situation.

“The IOC and UWW have faced intense criticism for their failure in September to robustly intervene to save the life of Greco-Roman champion wrestler Navid Afkari, who was executed by the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for his role in protesting regime corruption in 2018.

Rob Koehler, director-general of the sports human-rights advocacy organization Global Athlete, told the Post: “The IOC and UWW tried soft politics behind the scenes prior to Navid Afkari’s murder which clearly did not work.

The IOC and UWW must now enforce the highest sanctions possible on the Iran sporting federations to deter the Iranian government’s infringement of basic human rights. We can not see another athlete’s life taken; the abuse on Iranian athletes must immediately stop. It is not time to sit idle; it’s time for action.

”Koehler added that “This government no longer deserves the privilege of competing in international sport. It’s time for the IOC to send a message to every athlete that they will place their safety and duty of care as the highest priority.”Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, from the city of Andimeshk in the province of Khuzestan, was arrested in 2015 and charged with murder during a group brawl. It is unclear if Hosseini was tortured and forced to confess to a crime he did not commit.

Afkari suffered sustained tortured and issued a confession after brutal violence was inflicted on him to admit a crime he did not carry out.”What the European Union needs to ask themselves is, at what point do you consider a state a bad actor and take action accordingly,” said Cohanim, who fled the Islamic Republic of Iran with her family in 1979 when she was 6, to escape its repressive state policies. “Is it when the state underwrites terrorism and causes instability in entire regions? Is it when the state starves its own people while enriching its leadership? Is it when the state commits mass human rights violations against its own citizens? The Iranian regime checks all boxes.

“Prominent Olympic wrestlers have tweeted against the Iranian regime’s planned execution of Hosseini. Ben Askren, an American Olympic freestyle wrestler and mixed martial artist champion, tweeted to his over 350,000 followers: “This is insane, the second wrestler in a year to be executed by the authoritarian regime!

”This is insane, the second wrestler in a year to be executed by the authoritarian regime!

— Funky (@Benaskren) January 11, 2021

Askren’s tweet last year is largely credited with being the spark that started the prairie fire to save Afakri’s life by drawing attention to the double execution imposed on the wrestler.

The Iranian-American Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler, Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, who uses the moniker The Iron Sheik for his professional wrestling career, tweeted this reporter’s article to his over 540,000 followers about Hosseini and wrote in all capital letters: “THIS BREAK MY HEART.


— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) January 11, 2021

When asked about Hosseini’s case, Mohammad Rajai-Moghadam, a UN official who works for the Iran section, told the Post by email that “Sorry, I am not in the position to answer your questions.”Iran’s foreign ministry declined to answer media requests. The Post sent queries to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Mansoureh Mills, an Iran Researcher for Amnesty International, told the Post that “Unfortunately, we do not have much more information about the case of Mehdi Ali Hosseini than has already been reported. We understand that his death sentence has been halted for the time being, though we have no further information on this. We call on the Iranian authorities to immediately quash the death sentence of Mehdi Ali Hosseini and establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

“She continued saying that “Although we do not know the specific details of Mehdi Ali Hosseini’s case, we do know that the fair trial rights of defendants are systematically violated in Iran and that executions are often carried out after unfair trials. Detainees facing national security-related charges are systematically denied access to a lawyer at the investigation stage and forced ‘confessions’ obtained under torture and other ill-treatment without a lawyer present are consistently used as evidence by courts to issue convictions. Other individuals at risk of execution in Iran include Mohammad Reza Haddadi, who was just 15 years old at the time of arrest and was sentenced to death following a grossly unfair trial in violation of international human rights law, which absolutely prohibits the use of the death penalty against individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

“Mills added thatb “Another individual at risk of execution is Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali who has been held incommunicado in Tehran’s Evin prison since 24 November 2020, when he learned that his death sentence for ‘corruption on earth’ (efsad-e fel-arz) was to be carried out imminently.

In late December 2020, his family learned that Ahmadreza Djalali’s execution was halted for one month. He remains at risk of execution.

“Human Rights Watch did not immediately respond. The Iranian-American organization National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI) urged the IOC to intervene to stop the execution of Hosseini. The campaign United For Navid has also protested against the wrestler’s execution and, like NUFDI, wants Iran’s regime banned from the Olympics.

The Jerusalem Post

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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.