The Islamic Republic of Iran’s execution of a champion wrestler for his role in peaceful protests against regime corruption may trigger new nationwide demonstrations against the country’s rulers, according to a Thursday statement from 150 Iranian political and civil rights activists.
The US government news outlet Radio Farda first reported on Friday that the activists issued the statement to protest the regime’s execution of Navid Afkari, writing that they made "parallels between his hanging and the brutal massacre of protesters during the November 2019 uprising against Iran's clergy-dominated establishment.”
Radio Farda reported that the Iranian leaders responsible for Afkari's death are so hated that another revolt may be on the horizon.
Iranian authorities hastily executed Afkari on September 12 for allegedly killing a member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps. Afkari said he was brutally tortured to confess to a crime he did not commit. "If I am executed, people should know that in the 21st century, Iran still executes innocent people," he said.
Human rights organizations – ranging from Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch – documented the judicial malfeasance and torture Afkari faced prior to his execution.
According to the statement from the activists, Afkari’s death originated “from the same headquarters that had ordered the killing of hundreds of protesters in November 2019," adding that "the order was carried out with the same purpose as the previous massacre: to intimidate the people and suppress the protesters."
The activists pinned Afkari's death on the office of Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei and Iran’s notorious corrupt judiciary, stating they are "responsible" for such a "cruel crime."
Radio Farda reported that the activists’ statement said that the regime’s decision to impose two death sentences on Afkari indicated that the clerical regime was determined to kill the wrestler at the outset of the process.
"Disregarding the public will, the Supreme Leader's office and the criminal head of the Judiciary hastily, and even without legal and humane formalities, executed the young wrestler and plasterer," the activists wrote, adding that the "establishment's haste in committing such a crime" reveals "the depth of the regime's fear of the poor and oppressed people's uprising."
Afkari's two brothers, Vahid and Habib, are currently imprisoned for their role in the nationwide protests against the worsening economic situation in 2018. Vahid was sentenced to 54 years and six months in prison and 74 lashes, and Habib was sentenced to 27 years and three months in prison and 74 lashes.
Afkari's mother Bahiyyeh Namjoo said in a video posted on social media on August 30 that her sons had been brutally tortured to make confessions against each other.