Former acting director of national intelligence and ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell urged Olympic organizers to investigate Iran’s sentencing to death of a former Iranian wrestler, the Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday.
"The Tokyo organizers of the Olympics should inquire about this athlete’s case," Grenell told reporters.
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Wrestler Navid Afkari was arrested and sentenced to death for his participation in protests against the Iranian regime in 2018. Iranian authorities accuse Afkari of murdering an Iranian security guard during the protests, a charge Akfari maintains he was forced to confess to under duress. Iran has a documented record of forcing false confessions to crimes through torture.
"The evidence is there if the court wants to investigate [the acts of torture].… There is not one shred of evidence in this damned case that shows I’m guilty. But they don’t want to listen to us. I realized they are looking for a neck for their rope," Navid said.
Navid’s two brothers—Vahid and Habib—were also sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison, respectively, for their role in anti-regime protests. All three are set to receive 74 lashes. According to the brothers' mother, Vahid has attempted suicide three times due to the torture he has undergone.
The case has received little international attention, despite lobbying from a fellow prominent wrestler. Former two-time Division I collegiate champion and Olympian Ben Askren tweeted Wednesday voicing support for Navid.
"All of you SJWs let’s go!!!!" Askren tweeted. "This man is being executed for showing up at an actual peaceful protest. Let’s get this trending and make something happen."
Iran has cracked down on internal opposition this summer in a series of arrests and executions after massive protests inflamed by a coronavirus- and American sanctions-wracked economy. Putting even more pressure on Tehran, Washington went forward with snapback sanctions on the regime to hamper its military operations. Meanwhile, the Trump administration appointed noted hawk Elliott Abrams to the Iran desk last month to further the White House’s maximum pressure campaign.
Elsewhere in the region, Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and now Bahrain are in some cases normalizing relations with Israel and in others increasing cooperation to counter Iran’s growing capacity to destabilize the region. With Washington’s help, the Emiratis signed the first Gulf peace deal in over 25 years last month.