Iran set to execute another nationally ranked athlete

Second wrestler faces death sentence in Iran, known for its abuse of the death penalty against regime opponents.

By World Israel News Staff

Iran is preparing to execute one of its top athletes who was convicted of killing a man five years ago in a street fight, the Iranian Shabnak news website reported Friday.

Mehdi Ali Hosseini, 29, a wrestler from the Iranian city of Andimeshk, was arrested and charged with the murder of another man during an altercation in 2015. Sentenced to death for the killing, under Iranian law Hosseini can be spared if the victim’s family agrees to a pardon.

The report said authorities are preparing to execute him “in the coming days,” a few months after a fellow athlete was hanged on trumped up charges for participating in anti-government protests.

In September, the Islamic Republic executed top ranked wrestler Navid Afkari after he was arrested following anti-government protests and charged with the murder of a security guard. It is widely believed that Afkari was subjected to extreme torture while in prison, and there is speculation his execution was rushed in order to cover up the torture.

In the past week some prominent Iranian sports figures spoke out to prevent the execution of the death sentence and to obtain the consent of the victim’s family.

Wrestling is one of the top sports in Iran, and Iranian Olympic gold medalist and six-time world champion Hamid Sourian, who is vice-president of the Iranian Wrestling Federation, has called for a stay of Hosseini’s execution, urging the father of the man killed “to give up the retribution of Mehdi Ali Hosseini for the sake of God, so that this young athlete who has made this big mistake can get a new life.”

“When I started wrestling, Mehdi Ali Hosseini wrestled with my younger brother in the same age group and he is really a good and moral wrestler,” said Sourian, who noted that while in prison Hosseini became the champion of the country’s prison wrestling competitions.

“I desperately ask the noble family of the victim to forgive him,” Sourian said.

Following the September execution of Afkari, a group of five independent UN human rights experts issued a statement strongly condemning Iran, saying “it is deeply disturbing that the authorities appear to have used the death penalty against an athlete as a warning to its population in a climate of increasing social unrest.”

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“The hastened secret execution, forced confession under torture as the sole evidence, closed trial and the lack of respect for the domestic requirements for reconciliation and the denial of a last family visit suggest that there was an attempt by the authorities to expedite his execution,” the experts said.