Last September Iran followed through with its threat to execute Iranian national team wrestler Navid Afkari after he was charged with murdering a security agent. Human rights groups claim that the charges against Afkari were the result of a forced confession, brought about through torture.
Figures from the international wrestling community, as well as UFC President Dana White, spoke out against Iran in an attempt to pressure the country to stay Afkari’s execution. Despite these calls, Iran carried out the execution by hanging, per an official release. Afkari was 27-years-old. Activists in Iran dispute that Afkari was hanged, due to the beaten and bloodied condition of his body.
Despite the uproar caused by the treatment and death of Afkari, Iran is now set to execute a second wrestler, Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29. According to Arab News Hosseini’s execution could happen imminently.
Hosseini was arrested after a mass brawl in 2015 and was charged with murder. Reportedly Hosseini’s execution sentence is set to be upheld because the murder victim’s family has refused to pardon Hosseini.
Ali Safavi of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) spoke to Arab News about the case. Safavi said that his organization, “strongly condemn the ruling religious dictatorship for its intention to execute” Hosseini.
“The NCRI is opposed to capital punishment as a matter of principle. As evident in the past four decades, the clerical regime uses executions — political and otherwise — as a means to instill an atmosphere of terror and intimidation in society, in a bid to thwart the eruption of uprisings by an increasingly enraged and discontented population, which seeks regime change. These executions are carried out in blatant breach of internationally recognized standards, including due process.”
Among those calling for Hosseini’s execution to be stayed are Hamid Sourian, who won wrestling gold medals for Iran at the Olympic Games, World Championships and Asian Championships (per Inside the Games).
United World Wrestling, which oversees wrestling at the Olympics, released a statement regarding Hosseini. Though, their message offered neither support for Hosseini or condemnation of Iran’s human rights abuses. It read:
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. 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.
In the wake of Afkari’s death National Union for Democracy in Iran and Global Athlete have called for United World Wrestling and the International Olympic Committee to sanction Iran and disqualify them from competing internationally (per Marca).