IOPHR’s open letter to Mr. Nenad Lalovicthe President of United World Wrestling, to suspend membership of the Iranian Wrestling Federation from the United World Wrestling (UWW), in light of the unjust death sentence given to national wrestling champion, Mr. Navid Afkari

To the President of United World Wrestling

Dear Mr Nenad Lalovic,

Mr. Navid Afkari, the Iranian wrestling champion, like most Iranian sports champions, rose from a deprived and lower classes of society, and with his efforts and perseverance was able to progress through adolescence, and achieve national championship titles in Iranian wrestling.

Two years ago, he was arrested by security forces on charges of participating in a popular demonstration of August 2018, along with the large section of Iranian society who were protesting the unjust policies of the Iranian regime. He was subsequently subjected to the most severe physical, and psychological torture, in order to break the resistance of this Iranian wrestling champion. The inhuman Iranian regime also arrested his two other brothers, Vahid and Habib Afkari, and subjected them to the most severe physical, and mental torture in order to obtain a confession against their athlete brother.

The Iranian security forces then fabricated a case against the three brothers, creating ascenario in which they accused them of killing a Basiji (a member of Iranian Paramilitary force). However, they were never able to provide any evidence, witness, motive or reason for their accusation.

Eventually, the Iranian security agents also arrested Afkari’s father, and other family members. As a result of these pressures, and after the agents threatened to detain their mother and sister, Mr. Vahid Afkari, one of the three arrested brothers, in order not to be forced to bear witness against his younger brother, even attempted to commit suicide twice in prison.

However, during a show trial which took place without the presence of a lawyer, and without providing any evidence, Mr Navid Afkari was accused with the charge of “moharebeh” (enmity against God), as well as the murder of a security officer, which was never proven. All without providing any court evidence, and purely based on citing of “the defendant’s explicit confession.” According to Mr Navid Afkari, he was subjected to severe physical and mental torture and was sentenced to two death sentences, 6 years and 6 months in prison and 74 lashes. The other brother, 35-year-old Vahid Afkari, was sentenced to 54 years and 6 months in prison and 74 lashes, and finally the third brother, Habib Afkari, was sentenced to 27 years and 3 months in prison and 74 lashes.

In this regard, the IOPHR notes that according to Article 168 of the Islamic Penal Code adopted in 2012, the “explicit confession of the accused” is valid if the confessor is legally competent, an adult, sane and is not coerced into the confession. Also, according to Article 169 of the same law, a confession obtained under duress, coercion, torture or mental or physical harassment has no value, and validity, and the court is obliged to re-investigate the case.

Accordingly, and given the numerous audio files released by the three brothers, it is clear that their “confession” was forced and coercive, based on torture, and has no legal validity. Therefore, the verdict issued against them with regards to the provisions of Article 169 of the Islamic Penal Code has no merit, and the retrial must be held. Furthermore, the relevant judge also committed a disciplinary violation, due to not paying attention to the above-mentioned provisions regarding the duty to demand a re-investigation of the case, and the torture imposed on the accused. Thus, the judge in the case must also be prosecuted, and made to answer in the judicial disciplinary court.

Moreover, according to Article 218 of the Penal Code, if the accused claims that his confession was obtained through threats, intimidation or torture, the stated claim will be accepted without the need for evidence and oath.

In view of the above-mentioned legal points, the IOPHR firstly, invites all legal representatives in Iran to explain the flaws and gross legal violations in the verdict issued by the judge and send them to the Office of the Chief of the Judiciary in order to stop this unjust verdict being carried out as soon as possible.

The IOPHR also draws the attention of all governments, organisations and international organisations to the shortcomings of the judicial process and the widespread violation of human rights in Iran. In particular, the inhumane practice of forcing family members to confess against each other is acallous practice in the courts, which the Islamic Republic of Iran has used systematically and extensively throughout its reign.

The IOPHR also reiterates that the Iranian authorities’ appetite for the execution of young people and adolescents is insatiable, and that the world should not just watch this unacceptable organised governmental bloodshed in Iran.

In conclusion, IOPHR hopes that through the ​suspension of the membership of the Iranian Wrestling Federation from the UWW, that enough pressure can be placed on the Iranian regime to persuade them to save the life of an innocent national hero, who is facing imminent unjust death.

The International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR)

London – Washington

1st September 2020

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