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EU condemns execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium August 21, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union on Monday added its voice to an international outcry over the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, saying the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane punishment that the EU opposes in all cases.

Iranian state media reported Afkari’s execution on Saturday. Afkari, a champion Greco-Roman wrestler, had been convicted of stabbing a security guard to death during anti-government protests in 2018.

Afkari’s family has maintained that his conviction depended on a confession that was extracted through torture, which Afkari later recanted. The Iranian judiciary rejected his appeals.

“The European Union is opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and cases with no exception,” a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“Human rights remain a central feature of our engagement with Iran. We will continue to engage with Iranian authorities on this issue including through the local EU representation in Tehran and also on individual cases such as this recent execution,” he said.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned Germany’s envoy to “strongly protest” against the condemning of Afkari’s execution in comments on Twitter, the state news agency IRNA reported, saying the post was considered by Tehran to be interference in the Islamic Republic’s internal affairs.

The United States, which unlike the EU practises the death penalty, has also condemned Afkari’s execution. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it “an outrageous assault on human dignity, even by the despicable standards of this regime”.

Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai; Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson

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