September 10, 2020

By BBC News

International Olympics Committee president Thomas Bach is “extremely concerned” about the death sentence passed down on an Iranian champion wrestler who took part in protests two years ago.

Navid Afkari, 27, was handed two death sentences over the murder of a security guard during protests in Shiraz.

But there are concerns his confession was extracted under torture.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump urged Iran not to execute Akfari.

Bach said: “We have to respect the sovereignty and the judicial system of sovereign countries. But on the other hand, Navid Afkari is an athlete and therefore we feel close to him.

“This is why the IOC together with United World Wrestling [amateur wrestling’s international governing body] were and are extremely concerned about this case.”

Bach said Iran’s wrestling federation and the country’s Olympic committee were also “doing their utmost to facilitate a solution” of Afkari’s case.

Afkari’s brothers Vahid and Habib were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison in the same case, according to human rights activists in Iran.

A number of international wrestling figures and activists have also called for the brothers’ release, and a petition calling for Afkari’s life to be spared has been signed more than 10,000 times.

The World Players Association – which represents athletes across sport globally – has called on the head of the Iranian judiciary to grant an immediate stay of execution to Afkari.

An Iranian state television-linked news agency confirmed Thursday that Navid Afkari had been sentenced to death.

In 2018, protesters in cities across Iran took to the streets over economic hardship and political repression.

Further demonstrations took place late last year in protest against fuel price rises.

More than 7,000 people, including children as young as 10, were arrested in the crackdown that followed the 2019 unrest, according to Amnesty International.

Hundreds of protesters were killed, while those who survived were physically and sexually abused, a report released last week found.