On Monday, January 25, the Iranian people and the international community were once again taken aback by the execution of 30-year-old wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini at Dezful Prison in Khuzestan province, southwestern Iran. The ayatollahs once again boasted their cruelty with this inhuman action.

The Iranian government implemented this sentence despite international appeals and calls for sparing Hosseini’s life. The ayatollahs’ defiance of basic norms and human rights values prompted the people’s anger inside Iran and rights groups’ criticism abroad.

Mehdi Ali Hosseini was a Greco-Roman wrestler. The State Security Forces (SSF) detained him in 2015, accusing him of murder. Later, the Revolutionary Court sentenced him to ‘Qesas’ retribution, meaning death.

Following the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari for participation in nationwide protests in August 2018, Iranian authorities were severely concerned about the implications of Hosseini’s execution. In this context, the government secretly hanged this wrestler and immediately buried his corpse at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Andimeshk city.

According to eyewitness reports, plainclothes agents had surrounded the cemetery and banned citizens from attending the funeral, except for a few of the late wrestler’s family members.

Notably, like many other prisoners, Mehdi Ali Hosseini had been deprived of a fair trial. The Islamic Republic’s constitution allows the judiciary to file torture-tainted confessions as evidence, which are used by judges to send inmates to the gallows.

Earlier, on January 9, Iranians and international human rights organizations had called on authorities to revoke Hosseini’s death penalty. In this respect, on January 22, former U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. State Department Ellie Cohanim condemned the Iranian government’s use of the death penalty for preserving power.

“The Iranian regime must be held to account for their vile human rights abuses and their attempt to cling to power through execution,” she tweeted.

Surprisingly, Mehdi Ali Hosseini was the second athlete who was hanged by Iranian authorities within the past five months. In this regard, the international community, particularly the sports community, must penalize the Islamic Republic over its performance against Iranian athletes, opposition activists say.

Other than the execution of athletes, Iranian officials’ malign interference in the sports field has destroyed much talent and pushed national champions aside from the sports field. According to Iranian state-run media, annually a considerable number of athletes leave the country and take refuge in European states or the United States, where officials respect their abilities.

Tehran’s opponents say the failure of governments to back up their condemnation of Navid Afkari’s execution with punitive measures emboldened the Iranian authorities to repeat a similar crime. Athletes and particularly the Olympics Committee should take a firm decision in support of Iranian athletes, dissidents say.

Notably, the Iranian government executed at least 272 prisoners in 2020, including five juvenile offenders, eight women, and 13 political activists, rights activists reported. Moreover, interrogators tortured several inmates to death like juvenile offender Danial Zeynolabedini in Saqez Prison, Farhad Vosuqi—the father of a three-month baby boy—in Khorramabad Prison, and 19-year-old Mohammad Davaji in Gorgan’s Amirabad Prison.

Iran’s Human Rights Situation in 2020