Various prominent personalities and sporting groups worldwide have come together in unison in support of Iranian wrestler.

For the uninitiated, Navid Afkari was handed two death sentences for the alleged murder of a security agent during anti-government protests two years ago. However, there are allegations being made that the confession was coerced with the 27-year-old being put under intense physical and psychological torture. There are also suggestions made by some government critics that the authorities are using him to send a message in an effort to silence the dissenting voices. His brothers Vahid and Habib have also been sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison for the same crime.

Iran’s judiciary denied the claims, rather maintaining that Afkari stabbed an innocent man to death and that the court reached the death sentence based on strong evidence, a decision that was also upheld by the Supreme Court.

The World Players Association (WPA), which is the leading voice of organized players in the governance of world sport have demanded the head of the Iranian judiciary to grant an immediate stay of execution to the Iranian wrestler.

A statement from the association read, “Navid was one of thousands of Iranian citizens who took part in spontaneous demonstrations that year against economic hardship and political repression in Iran.”

“However, he has been unjustly targeted by the Iranian authorities who want to make an example out of a popular, high-profile athlete and intimidate others who might dare exercise their human right to participate in peaceful protest.”

Brendan Schwab, the Executive Director of the WPA also made a strong statement, saying that, “Navid has been singled out, tortured, and condemned to death because of his participation and success in sport. The horrific act of executing an athlete can only be regarded as a repudiation of the humanitarian values that underpin sport. It must result in Iran forfeiting its right to be a part of sport’s universal community.”

He also asked other major sporting federations like FIFA to come in defence of Mr. Afkari and apply pressure on Iran. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee have remained in contact with Iranian officials and are requesting for clemency.

FIFA shared their stance on the same in a tweet that read, “FIFA has followed the developments over the last few days in the case of the Iranian wrestling champion Navid Afkari. FIFA shares the concerns of IOC and many others, and very much hopes that the life of sportsman Navid Afkari will be spared.”

US President Donald Trump also called on the Iranian government to not execute the wrestler. In a tweet, he said, “Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkari, whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets. They were protesting the ‘country’s worsening economic situation and inflation.”

He further added, “To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you!”

It remains to be seen whether the public pleas and the pressure applied by the various sporting organizations and other important international voices forces Iran into changing their decision, thereby sparing the life of Navid Afkari.

It remains to be seen whether the public pleas and the pressure applied by the various sporting organizations and other important international voices forces Iran into changing their decision, thereby sparing the life of Navid Afkari.

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