Forty-eight days since that horrible morning of September 12 have passed. The Islamic Republic executed Navid Afkari that day. A week before that, they took the 3 Afkari brothers, Navid, Vahid and Habib, to solitary confinement. It involved brutal beating of the brothers and then restraining them with shackles and handcuffs, dragging them to cells No. 2, 3, and 4.
The family had been worried about their sons’ condition and publicized that in a letter. Behiyeh Namjoo, mother of the brothers, on September 9, asked the Judiciary Chief to have Medical Examiner examine her sons for signs of beatings and torture. Two days later, the brothers are informed they would be transferred to a prison in Tehran, but no details are shared! Navid gets a chance to phone his brother, Saeed. In his hopeful innocent voice, he gave Saeed the same news and told him the three of them were examined by some doctors and injuries were documented.
While the brothers were cut off from outside world, IRIB aired a “documentary” like the other 355 ones in the past 10 years. On September 5, the state-controlled broadcasted another forced confession scenario. This time, it showed Navid reenacting “the murder of an intelligence agent” who was present in August 2018 protests in Shiraz oppressing peaceful protesters. Navid, Vahid and Habib were arrested after the fact. Navid received 2 death sentences from two different courts for the same crime, 6 years 6 months imprisonment and 74 lashes!
The “documentary” was full of contradictions with the case file and was only filmed and aired to provoke emotions and justify qesas (retribution in kind) sentence! IranTrue published some of those issues and so did other websites. Here, we go through some of the flaws in the case:
- Medical Examiner office had confirmed broken arm of Navid during interrogations. According to Article 38 of the constitution, any confession or statement under torture is void.
- Four witnesses swore under oath that Vahid and Navid were with them at the time of the “murder.” The courts have totally ignored them.
- The witness who stated he saw Navid killing the man recanted. According to Articles 190 and 198 of Islamic Penal Code, that’s base for stay of execution and reviewing the case.
- The knife showed in the “documentary” doesn’t exist in the case file! Case file clearly states it was never found.
- Vahid is sentenced to 57 years in prison for being “accessory” to the murder. In the IRIB show, Navid states Vahid didn’t know until after the fact.
- According to the Penal Code, he should have served his prison term and received his lashes before getting executed. What was the rush?!
And this list goes on and on. Before Navid was moved to the “basement”, he knew this “documentary” would air at some point, so he answered all the questions as to why he confessed to the crime he didn’t commit! In another one of his calls, he said, “I realized they’re looking for a neck for their rope.”
Amnesty International sounded the alarm on September 11. In an “urgent action” notice, they called on international organizations including UN Human Rights body to intervene as there were “fears of execution in secret.” Islamic Republic has a long history of secret executions, but considering there was no evidence to Navid’s guilt, many were hoping the regime may reconsider the case like they were forced to do so in #اعدام نکنید campaign.
The next morning, the world crumbled! State-controlled media proudly published the news: “Navid Afkari Executed.” But nobody else in the world could believe the story, how was it possible?! According to Islamic Penal Code, 48 hours before execution the attorney must be informed, and the “victim’s family” must be present at execution. Islamic Republic Judiciary claimed the execution was on insistence of the victim’s family, but they weren’t even present.
Before execution, a document must be signed by the Executioner Judge, witnesses, Medical Examiner, and the person who’s being executed, indicating he knows what’s about to happen. After the execution, Fars Judiciary released a document in response to the secret killing of Navid. It didn’t have any letterhead, was written and signed by a single person. And the judge in charge wasn’t one of the signatories! According to procedures, after hanging, the body must be transferred to the morgue and then to the family. Navid was buried at night without his family present, outside a village he was born in!
Worldwide outcry began immediately with many asking justice for Navid. Javad Zarif, Foreign Minister of the regime and whitewasher of their crimes, was denied entry to Germany, Britain and Italy. Another campaign began asking Olympics and other international sporting institutions to ban Islamic Republic from the world stage. Olympics brought up the excuse as it would be unfair to Iranian sportsmen and women who can’t participate in international competitions.
However, that’s nothing but malarky. Olympics has done so for Apartheid government of South Africa in 1964 games, which ironically were held in Tokyo! Let’s not forget, WADA has banned Russia from all sporting events for four years, starting December 2019. It’s not the first time for Russia, though. In PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, the entire Russian delegation participated under a neutral flag.
Activists and athletes from around the world, including Iranian champions in different fields of sport, started a new campaign, “United4Navid.” It is to raise awareness and grow their collective voices in showing the world how banning Islamic Republic is not only against athletes’ benefits, but it’s for their freedom from the regime’s reign of terror. According to Masih Alinejad, more than 50 well-known names have joined with their short videos.
On October 26, Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, condemned the killing of Navid Afkari as a peaceful protester in August 2018 anti-regime protests. In his address to the UN General Assembly, called the execution “arbitrary” and a “grievous violation of the right to life.”
While Navid’s murder by Islamic Republic was gruesome and unforgivable, let’s remember his brothers Habib and Vahid, who are still in solitary confinement, and nobody knows anything about their condition. Even Navid’s lawyer had said, he doesn’t know where they are since before the execution. They were sentenced to 24 years 3 months and 56.5 years in prison, respectively, in connection with the same “case” as Navid. A case with tens of legal holes in it, including forced confessions under brutal lengthy tortures. They haven’t had the lawyer of their choosing, and as Mr. Rehman reported, it has “serious fair trial violations.”
On October 27, 2020, BBC Persian published a story from Afkaris’ sister narrating on behalf of Vahid about the night of execution and how they were given an option to call or visit their family on September 11 but Navid chose to call Saeed! That story is totally fabricated and denied by the sister! Islamic Republic knows they have to move Vahid and Habib from solitary confinement one day, they would be telling their side of the story. This could be a strategy to discredit what they might say and preemptively attack the ever repressed brothers.
Islamic Republic is responsible for Navid’s death as much as whatever happens to Vahid and Habib is on the regime as well. They must be released as soon as possible, and Islamic Republic only understands the language of pressure. United4Navid, UN Human Rights Council, human rights organizations, independent sports institutions, and social media campaigns are leverages against the brutal regime to free Vahid and Habib Afkari.