These days, the sports community has burdened a humanitarian task to save one of its champions Navid Afkari. In late August, Iran’s notorious judiciary sentenced the national wrestling champion to double-execution on bogus charges. The unjust sentence sparked a spate of sympathy and fury among athletes inside Iran and abroad. However, the ayatollahs still persist in performing the death penalty against him.
In an audio message circulated on social media, he rejected forged allegations and announced that all of them were torture-tainted confessions to release himself. “When I was transferred from confinement solitary to the ward, I immediately wrote a letter to different judicial officials and complained. I said, ‘I’m not a murderer and requested to be checked by forensics. The forensic report, eyewitnesses’ testimonies, and other evidence proved that I had been tortured. Whatever I wrote my defense and said my confessions were under torture and there is no evidence in the case; however, they did not want to hear my voice. I realized that they are looking for a neck to fit their noose,” Afkari said.
Death-row #politicalprisoner #NavidAfkari from #Shiraz prison:
"I wrote a letter to judicial officials & said I'm not a murderer. The forensic report, eyewitness testimonies, & evidence proved I was tortured. But, they're looking for a neck to fit their noose" pic.twitter.com/9w8QVUH9sc
— IranNewsUpdate (@IranNewsUpdate1) August 31, 2020
However, judicial authorities insist on executing this athlete and argue the inhuman sentence must be implemented according to a televised show as a “crime scene reconstruction.” However, human rights activists and groups reject this show and highlight contradictions.
“Film-makers claim that the slain (H.Torkaman) was a simple employee of local water organization ABFA and was going to shop. However, according to the interrogation document of branch 10, one of the security personnel of Fars province ABFA company identified ‘Hossein Torkaman,’ who have been ordered to participate in Zand crossroad, Shiraz city, during the August 2, 2018 unrest, was intercepted, chased, and brutally exposed to dead-blows of a knife by Navid and Vahid Afkari and died when he was returning to home,” tweeted hra-news.org on September 5.
It is considered that the name of the slain in his death notice and many cases were Hassan Torkaman, but in the mentioned judicial document, it is Hossein Torkaman. In other words, while judicial officials had made a mistake in noting the name of the slain, how they can provide reliable evidence? Furthermore, why have they pressured an “accused persons” for confessions if they possess strong proof?
“Film-makers claim that Afkari brothers had personal motivations for committing the murder. However, several judicial documents prove that they had ideological-political reasons for the alleged crime… For instance:
“In the final declaration of branch 10 of the special court for security crimes—May 16, 2019: … Vahid said, ‘Brother, be strong, we did it for freedom and God.’… Then I shouted, ‘Long-live freedom.’
“In the litigation provided by branch 1 of Fars province criminal court No. 1—October 6, 2019: … About their motivation, [Afkari brothers] announced that they had executed the murder due to the slain is one of security forces those who oppress the people,” the website added.
Notably, if the Afkari brothers had personal motivations, a superior court for security crimes had no competence to be involved, and an ordinary court should prosecute and judge.
“Film-makers claim that Afkari brothers have voluntarily confessed and even signed their confessions. However, accused persons implicitly pointed out to torture and refused to sign the proceeding record. According to litigation provided by the country’s supreme court-branch 39—August 23, 2020: … Accused persons denied defending themselves and prevented public defenders from defending them about charges claiming that they were under pressure and tortured in primary investigation phases. They also frequently repeated the claim that they were under pressure and torture in their defense.
“… Since the beginning of the investigation, the second accused (Mr. Vahid Afkari Sangari) denied committing any act and according to himself, he used the right to silence. He rejected signing the proceeding record,” hra-news.org wrote.
“Film-makers claimed that Hamid Reza Jamshidi, selected lawyer of Navid Afkari, had rejected exercising torture on his client. However, the name of Hamid Reza Jamshidi had never been mentioned in the court’s orders. Instead, the names of Soheil Shayandeh, son of Yadollah, and Hamid Reza Rafiei Golijani, son of Mohammad Taghi, were seen as Navid Afkari’s lawyers in the court proceeding records and orders,” the website reckoned.
“Film-makers deny Navid’s comments about being tortured based on a proceeding record related to when Afkari brothers were in custody. However, in his letter, Navid introduced Major Nokbakhti, head of branch 5, who exercised the most severe psychological and physical tortures with obscene language… Ridiculously, the signature of Major Nikbakhti is seen at the end of the proceeding record used by film-makers to reject implying torture,” hra-news.org added.
“In the aired film, film-makers show a knife and claim that Afkari brothers used it as murder-tool. However, Vahid Afkari had previously said, ‘Two days later, I threw the knife into the water well in Adilabad district, in front of Sandwich-110 shop, according to the court final declaration of branch 10 of the special court for security crimes—May 16, 2019. Judicial documents confirmed that murder-tool had yet found,” the website wrote.
On August 31, Hassan Younesi, the lawyer for the Afkari brothers, rejected a video provided by the judiciary about the moment of death. “There is no picture of the moment of death. The claimed video is related to one hour before the murder. More explanations will soon be published,” he tweeted.
“Surprisingly, the judiciary communication center put pressures on state-run media outlets claiming that [Hassan Younesi] is not the lawyer of Navid Afkari. The public relations that cannot discover the truth through making a call and questioning inside [the judiciary] system, how would be able to make relations with outside?” Younesi rejected judicial officials’ claims to undermine his competence in the case.
In reality, Iranian authorities try to take revenge from hundreds of thousands of protesters who shock the ruling system’s pillars during the recent protests. They would like to portray a ruthless view from the judiciary system to silence any opposition voice and cry for change.
In this respect, the Navid Afkari case is beyond an individual’s execution, although it relates to a national champion or an award-wining student like Ali Younessi or Amir Hossein Moradi. Following the bloody crackdown on demonstrators in November and January protests, authorities now continue the oppressive path in deteriorating any complaint and grievance. On the other hand, the Stop Execution in Iran campaign is considered in the line of nationwide protests.
Fortunately, Iranian citizens and netizens in a joint effort had yet managed to suspend the execution of several death-row protesters, including Amirhossein Moradi, Saeed Tamjidi, and Mohammad Rajabi. However, the international community and rights groups must pressure the ayatollahs to abolish all death penalties and release all political prisoners, followers of ethnic and religious minorities, and prisoners of conscience, particularly while the country has been plunged into a new wave of the health crisis.