May 5, 2021 – Eight months after an Iranian wrestler was unjustly executed in Shiraz, his brothers Vahid and Habib Afkari remain in prolonged solitary confinement in the same prison where they’ve also been tortured and threatened with execution, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“These brothers potentially witnessed the crimes committed against their brother and now they could also be executed to prevent them from speaking out,” said CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi.
“Instead of being able to grieve their loved one’s death, they are at the mercy of Iranian authorities who act as though they could silence anyone with impunity,” he added.
Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari was executed in Adelabad Prison in September 2020 after being accused of killing a security guard during street protests.
Before being hanged, he had filed a complaint stating that he had been tortured to provide the false confession that was used to convict him.
In a recent audio message smuggled out of prison, Vahid Afkari said he was tortured and fears he will also be executed.
“I can only depend on reason and the law,” he said. “There’s no other way [to save my life]. People of Iran, I’m innocent!”
The torture and other intimidation tactics imposed on the brothers to extract “confessions” from them have been so intense that Vahid Afkari has reportedly attempted suicide twice.
Vahid and Habib Afkari’s family members have stated that the brothers were subjected to various forms of psychological torture while being severely restricted from having contact with their relatives during visitations. Prison authorities have also denied the family’s requests for information about the brothers’ health.
The prolonged judicial process combined with the refusal to give the brothers’ lawyers access to their case files has increased pressure on the brothers to make false confessions.
On April 30, 2021, Persian-language media outlets reported that two senior officials speaking on behalf of Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi offered the Afkari brothers freedom after serving one year in prison if they admitted to committing murder—or face execution.
Vahid and Habib Afkari were convicted of “enmity against God” and participation in anti-state street protests. Habib has been sentenced to 27 years and three months in prison and Vahid to 25 years in prison. Both have also been sentenced to 74 lashes.
The Iranian judiciary and State Prisons Organizations are legally responsible for the health and safety of the Afkari brothers.
CHRI condemns the unlawful judicial practices and lack of transparency in their cases and urges the Iranian judiciary to allow them access to counsel, contact with their families, and due process in line with internationally recognized standards.
In a series of tweets on April 28, 2021, their brother Saeed Afkari said the two were being psychologically tortured because the authorities are “afraid the truth with be revealed.”
“The judiciary is also harassing friends and relatives who have expressed condolences to the family [for Navid Afkari’s execution] and has been fabricating cases against them,” Saeed tweeted.
“One brother was already executed and now his brothers fear the same fate, which raises serious questions about what the authorities are trying to hide by seeking to forever silence all of them,” said Ghaemi.
“The Iranian judiciary should abide by domestic laws against torture and prolonged solitary confinement, allow these brothers full access to counsel and due process, and let this family grieve and seek justice without a climate of fear,” he added.