US imposes sanctions on Iran’s judiciary over execution of wrestler

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces sanctions against two judges, a court and three prisons

epa08663502 A undated handout photo made available 12 September 2020 by National Council of Resistance Iran (NWRI) and the Iranian Exile Society, showing Iranian champion wrestler Navid Afkari at a undisclosed location. Iran's national news agency IRNA confirmed 12 September 2020 Iran had executed Navid Afkari for a murder that he according to Iran's judicial authorities had confessed to. Many leading international organizations had protested the planned execution and asked Iran to spare Afkari's life.  EPA/NWRI HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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The US State Department has imposed sanctions on two Iranian judges, a court and three prisons for involvement in the torture and execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the announcement on Thursday afternoon.

The sanctions were against Judges Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati and Mohammad Soltani, of Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz.

The US also blacklisted three Iranian prisons: Adel Abad, Orumiyeh and Vakilabad.

Mr Afkari was arrested in 2018 for taking part in protests and was executed on September 12, despite calls from the international community to stop it.

Mr Pompeo called on the Iranian regime to respect the human rights of the Iranian people.

“The United States is committed to holding accountable those who are denying freedom and justice to the people of Iran, and today we are taking major new actions that support the Iranian people,” he said.

The sanctions were implemented under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act.

Mr Pompeo said the judges, court and prisons "were responsible for certain gross violations of human rights".

He accused them of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, arbitrary detentions, and denials of the right to liberty of those seeking only to practise their faith, assemble peacefully or express themselves.

Mr Pompeo also mentioned the three US citizens still detained in Iran.

"This same system of injustice wrongfully detains three Americans: Baquer and Siamak Namazi, and Morad Tahbaz," he said.

"We will continue to make every effort to bring them home.”

The US special representative for Iran, Elliott Abrams, told Congress that the courts were tools for the Iranian regime.

“These so-called revolutionary courts are not what anyone in the United States would recognise as a court," Mr Abrams told a Senate foreign relations committee hearing on Thursday.

"Their purpose is to maintain the regime's stranglehold on power and put Iranians who seek freedom into prison or even to order their execution.

Mr Afkari, 27, received two death sentences and 74 lashes for his role in the 2018 anti-regime protests.

Also on Thursday, the US envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the US would be willing to meet Iran and discuss the war in its neighbouring country.

“We have offered to meet with the Iranians … to discuss the future of Afghanistan," Mr Khalilzad told the US Institute of Peace.

“Iran would like to keep us entangled in a conflict without winning or losing, but paying a high price in Afghanistan until there is an agreement between the US and Iran."

The Trump administration is seeking to withdraw from Afghanistan and struck a deal with the Taliban in February towards that end.

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