FIFPro football body 'sickened' as Iranian player Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution

Former national youth team player briefly joined the protests and is accused of murdering a security officer

Iran footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces execution. Photo: FIFPro
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A global professional football federation has said it is sickened by reports a footballer in Iran faces execution for participating in the nationwide protests.

FIFPro, the international federation of professional footballers, said on Tuesday it was “shocked and sickened” by reports professional player Amir Nasr-Azadani, 26, faces execution in Iran “after campaigning for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country”.

The Netherlands-based body said it stands in solidarity with Mr Nasr-Azadani and calls for the death sentence to be immediately repealed.

The footballer, who played in Iran's premier league and for the national youth team, was arrested in November over the death of an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander.

Footage shared by state TV showed the forced confessions of Mr Nasr-Azadani and two others over the murder of the security officer, said IranWire, which reported he had briefly participated in protests and chanted anti-government slogans.

His family told the independent news agency they have been pressured into silence over his arrest and said the man was “nowhere near” the place where the IRGC member was killed.

The death sentence “would become final” if the family spoke to foreign media, it quoted a relative as saying.

The footballer is now charged with moharebeh, or enmity against God, a charge which carries the death sentence.

Two men charged with the same crime have already been executed.

Majidreza Rahnavard was hanged from a crane on Monday, also convicted of moharebeh.

The judiciary said he had killed two security officers — an accusation often levelled at government dissidents without proof.

It came just days after Mohsen Shekari was hanged for allegedly injuring a member of the Basij paramilitary group and blocking off a street in Tehran.

The deaths have drawn widespread condemnation but are unlikely to stop Tehran, which pursued capital punishment for decades and is one of the world's biggest executioners.

Wrestler Navid Afkari was put to death in 2020 after participating in protests in 2018. He was also accused of murdering a security officer and was reported to have confessed under torture.

Many athletes have spoken out against the government since the outbreak of protests three months ago over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. Almost 500 people have been killed and 18,000 arrested since they began, rights groups say.

Several women have publicly defied the regime, competing without hijab at international competitions, only to issue apparent forced apologies and be removed from national teams.

Iran's national football team was also praised by protesters for refusing to sing the Iran national anthem at the World Cup in Qatar. It then backtracked on the move amid reports their families had been threatened with torture if players acted against the government.

Iran star Voria Ghafouri, who chose not to play in Qatar, was arrested in November for “insulting the national team and spreading propaganda” in voicing support for the protests.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 6:07 AM
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