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29 Jan, 2021 10:32

‘This is simply tragic’: Iran accused of ‘systematic human rights violations’ for alleged execution of wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini

‘This is simply tragic’: Iran accused of ‘systematic human rights violations’ for alleged execution of wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini

There have been fresh calls for Iran to be banned by major sporting bodies following the reported death of a second leading wrestler, who was said to have been executed by hanging in prison at the age of 30 earlier this week.

Despite outcry and petitions backed by the likes of Hamid Sourian, Iran's Olympic, World and Asian Championship wrestling gold medalist, national-level wrestler Mehdi Ali Hosseini met his death in Dezful prison on Monday, according to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Authorities had charged Hosseini with murder in 2015 when they claimed he had killed someone during a mass brawl, and his death sentence was upheld because the victim’s family decided not to grant him clemency.

The execution comes months after Navid Afkari, a wrestler with the national Iran team, met the same fate following a confession to murdering a security officer.

Also on rt.com Second wrestler faces execution over ‘murder during mass brawl’ amid pleas for ‘criminal’ Iran regime to be banned from Olympics

Human Rights Groups have countered that Afkari was punished for joining anti-government protests and had admitted the charge because he was tortured, while Bloody Elbow reported that there were doubts over the method used to kill the athlete, with his relatives said to have reported that he appeared to have been severely beaten when they received his body.

UFC president Dana White and former US president Donald Trump had told Iran not to execute Afkari, and the NCRI joined many of Hosseini's supporters in condemning the killing of Hosseini.

“The case of flagrant and systematic human rights violations in Iran must be referred to the UN Security Council," the council insisted in a statement.

"The leaders of this regime must be brought to justice for four decades of crimes against humanity.”

Responding to Hosseini's death, Masih Alinejad, who launched the "United for Navid" campaign to back Afkari, tweeted: "We are fighting against execution in Iran and we need international community to hold the regime in Iran accountable. Stop executions in Iran."

Rob Koehler, the director-general of Global Athlete, an international sports advocacy organization for Olympic athletes, told the Jerusalem Post that United World Wrestling (UWW) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had missed numerous opportunites to "send a clear message" by suspending Iran from international competition.

"Instead, too many excuses have been given why they can not act," he rued. "One would think organizations like the IOC and the UWW, that promote peace through sport would take proactive steps to find ways to intervene to protect the lives and safety of Iranian athletes.

"There is nothing peaceful about the execution of Navid and Mehdi. This is simply tragic."

Adelle Nazarian, a Senior Media Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategy, told the Post that the execution had been "unjust" and a "full display" of the Iran regime's "insecurity".

"Hosseini did not receive access to a fair trial and it remains unclear whether he was coerced or tortured into confessing to a crime he did not commit," she said.

"What we do know is the Iranian regime is feeling more emboldened today than it has over the last four years and the timing of their execution of Mehdi Ali Hosseini, if nothing more, was to send a message to the regime’s detractors within the Islamic Republic that any one of them could be next.”

In an email to the Post, UWW spokesman Gordon Templeman described the case as "outside the UWW's or the IOC's remit."

"Mr Hosseini was convicted of having been involved in a robbery that ended with the death of a final-year medical student who was living in the house that Mr Hosseini and his accomplice had entered," he wrote.

"We were informed that this was a criminal case only, with no sports-related background."

The US government imposed sanctions on Iranian regime judicial and prison officials over the alleged murder of Afkari.

Also on rt.com Iran executes champion wrestler over killing of security agent amid violent 2018 anti-govt uprising