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Iran executes wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini

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Despite pressure from the international community, and one of Iran’s top wrestlers, Iran carried out the execution of Mehdi Ali Hosseini.

Weekend Protests In London
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 10: An exhibition calling for an end to executions in Iran on Trafalgar Square on October 10, 2020 in London, England. The exhibition, held by Anglo-Iranian communities in the UK, marked the World Day against the Death Penalty.
Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images

On Monday Iran carried out the execution, via hanging, of national-level wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) reported that Hosseini, who was from Andimeshk, was executed in Dezful prison. He was 30 years old.

Authorities charged Hosseini with murder in 2015, saying he killed someone during a mass brawl. Hosseini’s death sentence was upheld because the victim’s family declined the opportunity to grant him clemency.

Iranian wrestling hero Hamid Sourian, an Olympic, World and Asian Championship gold medallist, had petitioned the family to show mercy to Hosseini.

Hosseini’s death comes a few months after Iran executed Navid Afkari, a wrestler who represented Iran’s national team. Afkari had been charged with murdering a security officer. Iran said that Afkari’s charges and conviction stemmed from a confession Afkari made while in detention.

Human Rights Groups claimed that Afkari’s confession, like many that happen in Iran, was the result of torture. Those groups also claimed that Afkari was actually punished for participating in anti-government protests.

Iran claimed they executed Afkari by hanging in September. However, there are some doubts over the method used to kill him. When Afkari’s relatives received his body they reported that it appeared as though he had been severely beaten.

While Afkari was awaiting his execution figures from the worlds of wrestling and combat sports advocated for his release. Among them was UFC President Dana White. Former US President Donald Trump also urged Iran not to execute Afkari.

Hosseini did not receive as much international support as Afkari.

United World Wrestling, which oversees wrestling at the Olympics, did release a statement on Hosseini. However, it offered no support to the wrestler who would die less than a month later. 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.

United World Wrestling and the International Olympic Committee are currently being pressured by international rights groups to sanction Iran and prohibit them from international wrestling competitions (per Marca).

In response to Hosseini’s execution (and the dozens of other executions that have occurred in Iran over the past month) the NCRI has called upon the United Nations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and all European Union member states to condemn Iran.

An NCRI statement on Hosseini stated: “The case of flagrant and systematic human rights violations in Iran must be referred to the UN Security Council, and the leaders of this regime must be brought to justice for four decades of crimes against humanity.”