The United States has called for the release of unjustly detained Iranian prisoner Vahid Afkari.
Vahid is the brother of champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, who was executed in secret by Iranian authorities in 2020, in what the United States called “an unconscionable act.”
Navid and Vahid, as well as a third brother, Habib, were arrested in 2018 after peacefully joining protests in their hometown of Shiraz. The demonstrations at the time erupted over economic issues and expanded to protest the regime’s repressive rule.
Navid Afkari was tortured to confess to crimes he did not commit and was subjected to a grossly unfair trial. Vahid and Habib Afkari were sentenced to decades in prison. Habib was released in March 2022 after spending 550 days in solitary confinement.
U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel noted, “Vahid Afkari has now spent 1,000 days in solitary confinement:”
“Like his brother [Navid], Vahid was unjustly detained and tortured into giving false confessions and handed a 33-year and nine-month prison sentence and 74 lashes after an unfair trial.
“Vahid’s treatment is typical of that of the Islamic Republic’s judicial authorities, who are not interested in justice but who endeavor to strike fear in the hearts of ordinary civilians and protesters.”
The demonstrations that took place in Iran in 2017 and 2018 were, up until that time, the largest protests since the Green Revolution of 2009. Both have been surpassed by the nationwide anti-regime protests that followed the September 2022 death in police custody of twenty-two year-old Kurdish Iranian Mahsa Amini. Tens of thousands of people were arrested in those protests.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has imposed 11 rounds of sanctions’ actions targeting the Iranian regime and its security elements and officials involved in the crackdown on peaceful demonstrations since September 2022.
Spokesperson Patel said, “We’ll continue to take steps to hold the Iranian regime accountable” for its “egregious human rights abuses.”
Meanwhile, he said, the United States wants to draw attention to the case of Vahid Afkari.
“We once again call on Iranian authorities to free Vahid and all those Iranians, including many young people, who remain imprisoned for exercising their human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.”