Greco-Roman wrestling champion Navid Afkari has been executed.
The Iranian government claimed that Afkari, 27, murdered a security guard during protests in 2018. Afkari and his legal team have maintained that he was peacefully protesting and only confessed to the murder under extreme torture by authorities, per Yahoo! Sports. The execution took place on Saturday.
UFC President Dana White pleaded with the Iranian government to spare Afkari's life, and implored U.S. President Donald Trump to do the same.
“[Afkari] went to a peaceful protest in Iran and he’s going to be executed for that. It was brought to my attention. This guy is, first of all, he’s a human being; number two: he’s one of us. He could be any of my fighters. The only thing I thought to do was to call the President and see if he could help this man. He said, ‘Let us look into it. Let me talk to the administration and see if there is something we can do to save his life.’ So the President tweeted [a plea to the Iranian government]." White said in an Instagram video. “I would just like to say that I, too, respectfully and humbly ask the government officials in Iran to please not execute this man and spare his life.”
Trump wrote in a tweet: “Hearing that Iran is looking to execute a great and popular wrestling star, 27-year-old Navid Afkarai, whose sole act was an anti-government demonstration on the streets. They were protesting the ‘country’s worsening economic situation and inflation’… To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him. Thank you!”
Afkari's brothers, Vahid and Habib, were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison, respectively, according to human rights activists in a BBC report. They were also sentenced to 74 lashes.