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Iran denounces outside interference amid international outcry over wrestler’s execution

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wears a protective face mask, with Khamenei asking Iranian people to wear a protective face mask against coronavirus COVID-19 on June 30, 2020 Tehran, Iran. (Salampix/Abaca Press/TNS)
September 15, 2020

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry summoned Germany’s ambassador in Tehran on September 14 over a tweet condemning the execution of a champion wrestler convicted of murder, calling the German reaction an “interference in the internal affairs” of the country.

Iranian authorities say Navid Afkari, 27, was executed two days earlier following a trial that was condemned by human rights groups as fraudulent, triggering a chorus of international condemnation.

Afkari was convicted of killing a security guard with the government’s water and sewage department in the southern city of Shiraz during mass anti-government protests in 2018.

“It is not acceptable for legal constitutions to be ignored in order to silence dissenting voices,” the German Embassy in Tehran said in a September 13 post on Twitter.

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Afkari’s two imprisoned brothers “need our solidarity,” it added.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said in its September 14 statement that it “strongly condemned” the tweet and told German Ambassador Hans-Udo Muzel that “interference in the laws, regulations, and judicial procedures of the Islamic Republic of Iran is not tolerable in any way.”

Separately, Iran’s Justice Department said that “foreign embassies should not become the mouthpiece for Iranian opposition groups and should at the very least adhere to diplomatic norms.”

“Pressure from abroad” would undermine neither the Iranian justice system nor the laws that govern the country, said Ali Bagheri, deputy head of the department’s office for international affairs.

The official did not mention Afkari by name or which embassies he was referring to.

Meanwhile, a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman cited “considerable doubts about the rule of law in the proceedings” of Afkari’s case and allegations that he “confessed only under torture.”

Iran’s judiciary has denied the torture claims made by Afkari’s family and activists.

EU Foreign Affairs spokesperson Peter Stano said that the bloc is opposed to the death penalty “under all circumstances and cases with no exception.”

“It is a cruel and inhumane punishment,” Stano added.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called the execution of Afkari “a vicious and cruel act.”

The International Olympic Committee said it was “deeply upsetting” that pleas by athletes from around the world and international bodies had failed to halt it.

Afkari was a national champion in wrestling, which is a widely popular sport with a long and deep history in Iran and often referred to as the country’s “first sport.”

His two brothers, Vahid and Habib, were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison in the same case, rights activists have said.