Zarif says wrestler Afkari executed for murder, not role in unrest

Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari was executed earlier this month for murder, the country’s foreign minister said on Monday, rejecting assertions by rights activists that the death sentence arose from his involvement in street protests.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking in a virtual address to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Iran’s hardline judiciary said last week that Afkari, 27, a national champion Greco-Roman wrestler, was executed for murder. But his family and rights groups said he was tortured into making a false confession and his attorney said there was no proof of his guilt.

“Iran’s judiciary is independent…(it) has a process and decides based on evidence,” Zarif said. “I am not in a position to judge a court’s decision…He was executed for murder, not for charges related to protests.”

Iranian state media reported Afkari’s execution on September 12, saying Afkari had been convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

The European Union condemned Afkari’s execution, calling it cruel and inhumane punishment, while the United States called it “an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime”.

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