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Twitter Hashtag To Stop Iranian Protester's Death Sentence Tops Persian Hashtags

Iran -- Navid Afkari, Iranian wrestler has been reportedly sentenced to death for participating in anti-government protests in Shiraz and Kazerun, Iran.

The hashtag created to urge Iranian authorities to drop the death sentence Navid Afkari, an Iranian protester and wrestler, topped all Persian language hashtags on Twitter Wednesday and ranked among the ten top English language hashtags.

The online campaign to stop the execution of Afkari follows an earlier campaign in July to put an end to executions in Iran.

During the campaign, which was initially meant to stop the execution of three young men who were arrested during last November's protests in Iran, the hashtag "No to Death Penalty" was used over 11 million times within a few days from the start of the campaign on July 14. As the campaign gained momentum, reports emerged that the internet connection in parts of Iran had been slowed down by providers that are controlled by security bodies of the country.

On August 30, Iranian human rights activists reported that a court in Shiraz sentenced 27-year-old Afkari to two death sentences for allegedly killing a government security agent during protests in Shiraz in 2018. Afkari confessed to the killing in court but has since retracted his confession and says he made the confession following psychological and physical torture.

Navid Afkari's two brothers, Vahid and Habib Afkari, are also in prison for the same charges, with their mother claiming in a video message that the brothers were tortured to "confess" against each other, and one even slashed his own neck with a piece of glass because he could not bear the agony. Vahid and Habib were sentenced to 54 and 27 years in prison respectively, and an additional 74 lashes each.

According to Navid Afkari's newly-appointed lawyer Ali Younesi, Navid is also being tried by another court for his role in the protests against increasing prices of commodities in the summer of 2018.

The Iranian Judiciary maintains that Navid's death sentence is based on CCTV footage that shows him committing the crime. His lawyer, however, has said that he is not in the footage, which actually shows the crime scene an hour before the killing.