The World Players Association (WPA) has called for the head of the Iranian judiciary to grant an immediate stay of execution to Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari, who faces the death penalty.
Afkari has been sentenced to death in relation to the murder of the Iranian government’s water and sewage department’s security agent Hasan Turkman during the August 2018 protests in Shiraz, according to Iran’s state media Mizan.
But the WPA, the leading voice of organized players in the governance of world sport, has called for Iran to be threatened with expulsion from international sport with Afkari’s death sentence looming.
“Navid was one of thousands of Iranian citizens who took part in spontaneous demonstrations that year against economic hardship and political repression in Iran,” said a statement from the WPA.
“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.”
WPA director Brendan Schwab also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to threaten Iran with expulsion from the Olympic movement.
In a statement to CNN, the IOC said it has been in “constant contact” with the National Olympic Committee of Iran and the Iranian Wrestling Federation, both of which are “doing their utmost to facilitate a solution.”
US President Donald Trump also asked Iranian leaders last week to spare Afkari’s life, tweeting: “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 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!”
CNN’s Richard Parr contributed to this report