Iran broadcasts wrestler’s confession following Trump tweet
Iran’s state TV aired a recorded confession from 27-year-old wrestler Navid Afkari on Sunday after President Trump tweeted about his case and asked Iranian authorities to spare him from the death penalty.
In a clip aired late Saturday night, Afkari admitted to stabbing a water supply company employee during protests in 2018. But U.S. officials and international rights groups have maintained that his confession was coerced, The Associated Press reported. International observers have long accused Iran of airing coerced confessions.
The airing of a segment about Afkari on Iranian state TV came just days after Trump and other U.S. officials spoke out about the case.
“We join the world in outrage at the Iranian regime’s death sentence for Navid Afkari, who was tortured into giving a false confession after participating in peaceful protests in 2018. The regime also tortured his two brothers and sentenced them to decades in prison. Let them go!” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said on Thursday.
We join the world in outrage at the Iranian regime’s death sentence for Navid Afkari, who was tortured into giving a false confession after participating in peaceful protests in 2018. The regime also tortured his two brothers and sentenced them to decades in prison. Let them go!
— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) September 3, 2020
Trump weighed in the same day, writing that Afkar’s “sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets.”
“Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai,” Trump wrote. “To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2020
Afkari and his two brothers were charged and convicted by an Iranian court for the murder in 2018, with his brothers receiving lengthy prison sentences and Afkari receiving a death sentence. International human rights activists say the three were targeted after appearing at a nonviolent protest against Iran’s government.
UFC President Dana White, a political ally of Trump, also spoke out about the case in a video released Friday.
“He’s one of us. He could be any of my fighters,” White says in the video, adding that he called Trump to secure the latter’s support.
— danawhite (@danawhite) September 4, 2020