The former US acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell on Wednesday urged the organizers of the Olympics to intervene in the slated execution of an Iranian national champion wrestler.
“The Tokyo organizers of the Olympics should inquire about this athlete’s case,” Grenell wrote to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The Post reported last week on the case of the wrestler Navid Afkari, whose death penalty sentence was confirmed by the Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Court for his 2018 peaceful protest against the regime in Tehran.
Iran’s regime alleged that Afkari killed a security man in Shiraz, Fars Province at the time of the summer 2018 protests against the mismanaged Iranian economy. Afkari said he was tortured into making a forced confession.
According to an audio from August 30, 2020, Navid spoke about his injuries in the Medical Examiner’s Office in Shiraz that were a result of the torture.
“The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate [the acts of torture] … There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realized they are looking for a neck for their rope,” Navid said.
“Death sentences from a judicial system that ignores evidence, denies due process and tortures its detainees into false ‘confessions’ are nothing less than murder,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
He added that “The Iranian authorities are increasingly using death sentences to terrorize the population into remaining silent and end any further participation in peaceful protests,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
CHRI called “for the immediate halt to any plans for the execution of Navid Afkari, and a thorough, unbiased judicial review of all three convictions.”
Navid’s two brothers, Vahid Afkari and Habib Afkari, were also convicted as part of a sham trial and sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison respectively. The three brothers are slated to receive 74 lashes.
Behieh Namjoo, the mother of the three brothers, said in a video message August 30, 2020:“Vahid has been under so much physical and psychological torture that he attempted suicide three times… to force him to implicate Navid.”
She continued: “They held an unjust and false trial where my children were not able to defend themselves and sentenced them without evidence of any crime…
“I call upon the people of the world and the people of Iran and anyone who can hear me to help [fight] the unjust sentences against my sons.”
Afkari’s attorney Hassan Younesi told CHRI on September 1, 2020 that a security camera recording, based on which the Iranian wrestling champion was given the death sentence, actually proves he could not have committed the murder he is accused of.
According to CHRI, Afkari has won several freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling medals in Iranian and international tournaments. Iran produces some of the world’s best wrestlers. The ancient Olympic sport is beloved by the Iranian public.
Iran’s government did not respond to Jerusalem Post press queries.
The highly decorated Olympic wrestler, NCCA Division 1 two time national champion, and mixed martial artist, Ben Askren tweeted to his 349,000 followers on Wednesday: “All of you SJWs [Social Justice Warriors] let’s go!!!! This man is being executed for showing up at an actual peaceful protest. Let’s get this trending and make something happen.”
All of you SJWs let’s go!!!! This man is being executed for showing up at an actual peaceful protest. Let’s get this trending and make something happen. https://t.co/k5KIki3sbS— Bionic Ben (@Benaskren) September 2, 2020
Askren’s efforts to draw attention to the plight of Afkari appear to have struck a chord. His first tweet on August 30 about Afkari went viral, and he played a key role in generating a social media campaign to prevent the execution of Afkari. There is now a online petition to save Afkari's life, with nearly 6,000 signatures.
Askren also tweeted :”Let’s go someone help this man!!!” The hashtag #SaveNavidAfkari is popular on Twitter. Following Askren’s tweet, articles have appeared in FoxNews.com, the UK's large Daily Mail, and Europe’s largest daily, the German paper Bild. Askren, who was known for his "funky" and unorthodox style of wrestling, serves as a wrestling announcer for Flo Wrestling.
The Post sent press queries to the International Olympic Committee, USA Wrestling and United World Wrestling. The International Olympic Committee told the Post on Thursday: "The IOC is aware of the case of Navid Afkari and has, like United World Wrestling, taken steps to follow up on the matter."