Iran broadcast the wrestler’s televised confession last week. The segment resembled hundreds of other suspected coerced confessions aired over the last decade in the Islamic Republic.
The case revived a demand inside the country for Iran to stop carrying out the death penalty. Even imprisoned Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, herself nearly a month into a hunger strike over conditions at Tehran’s Evin prison amid the coronavirus pandemic, passed word that she supported Afkari.
Earlier, the U.S. president Donald tweeted out his own concern about Afkari’s case.
“To the leaders of Iran, I would greatly appreciate if you would spare this young man’s life, and not execute him,” Trump wrote last week. “Thank you!”
Iran responded to Trump’s tweet with a nearly 11-minute state TV package on Afkari. It included the weeping parents of the slain water company employee, Hassan Torkaman. The package included footage of Afkari on the back of a motorbike, saying he had stabbed Torkaman in the back, without explaining why he allegedly carried out the assault.
The state TV segment showed blurred police documents and described the killing as a “personal dispute,” without elaborating. It said Afkari’s cellphone had been in the area and it showed surveillance footage of him walking down a street, talking on his phone.
Also, Iran’s semiofficial Tasnim news agency dismissed Trump’s tweet in a feature story, saying that American sanctions have hurt Iranian hospitals amid the pandemic.
“Trump is worried about the life of a murderer while he puts many Iranian patients’ lives in danger by imposing severe sanctions,” the agency said.