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Navid Afkari's Execution Was Hasty, His Lawyer Tells Radio Farda

IRAN -- Iranian Babak Paknia, the lawyer of Amirhossein Moradi one of the three people convicted over November protests, speaks during an interview with AFP at his office in the capital Tehran, July 19, 2020
IRAN -- Iranian Babak Paknia, the lawyer of Amirhossein Moradi one of the three people convicted over November protests, speaks during an interview with AFP at his office in the capital Tehran, July 19, 2020

Babak Paknia, an attorney involved in Navid Afkari's legal case, dismissed as "unfounded" the Fars provincial judiciary's statement on carrying out the death penalty against the young athlete.

Following the outcry over the 27-year-old national wrestling champion's hanging on Saturday in the notorious Adelabad prison in Shiraz, Fars' judiciary published a statement insisting that it had respected all legal requirements in Afkari's hanging.

Speaking to Radio Farda's Mohammad Zarghami on Wednesday, Paknia begged to differ, describing the judicial statement's wording as essentially "primitive," and devoid of legal values.

"The statement is far from being compatible with the Islamic Republic's penal code and guidelines," Paknia said. "The judiciary has argued that since 'several judges' were involved in issuing the verdict against the young athlete, the decision was most probably accurate. However, there have been verdicts endorsed by several judges but later withheld by the Supreme Court."

Afkari was condemned to death for killing an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps member in the heat of Iran's August 2018 protests. Despite an international campaign calling for Afkari's release, the Islamic Republic authorities hanged and secretly buried him overnight on Saturday. The procedure has triggered a widespread protest on social media, with critics accusing the country's judiciary of covering up the details concerning the young athlete's execution.

Meanwhile, evidence including a recorded telephone conversation between Afkari and his family a few hours before the execution indicates that he was not informed that he would be executed. Afkari also did not meet with his family and attorneys before his execution, which Paknia cited as unlawful.

"The victim's right to have the last visit was not observed. They did not inform his lawyer about implementing the death verdict, either," Paknia said, adding, "Afkari contacted his family at 11.30 p.m. the night before getting executed. His conversation during this call shows that 'all circumstances were normal up until then.'"

Responding to the critics, Fars' judiciary argued that it was Afkari's personal decision to talk to his family on the phone instead of meeting them before the execution.

Nevertheless, Afkari's recorded last voice call indicates to the fact that he was not aware that his execution was imminent, and believed they were taking him to Tehran for further investigation into the case.

Paknia also listed several flaws in the legal procedure before and after the execution, telling Radio Farda, "First of all, the letter published by the Fars judiciary as a piece of evidence has no legal value. It is written on a piece of paper without any official letterhead or marks on it."

"The signatories to the letter are also unrelated to Afkari's case," Paknia added, citing the "primitive wording" of the letter compared to a proper legal document.

As Paknia asserted, "The Afkari family has the right to file a lawsuit against the judge responsible for the verdict's execution and demanding his evidence concerning the case."

To seek restitution, Paknia said that Afkari's family should write a formal letter to the head of the Iranian judiciary asking him to appoint impartial individuals to clarify whether the bylaw on "qisas" (eye for eye retribution) has been respected, and whether the perpetrators should be punished.

"Based on the Retribution bylaws," Paknia said, "the judge is obliged to inform various officials including the convict's lawyer at least 48 hours in advance of carrying out the verdict. The convict, himself, must be informed so that he could visit the persons he desires to see for the last time. And the judicial authorities must provide the conditions for this visit. Oddly enough, in this case, none of these procedures were carried out and observed as much as I have been able to find out from talking to the lawyers of this case."

Paknia also represents three men sentenced to death over links to similar protests in November. Unlike Afkari's case, the three men's executions were halted following an appeal to the Iranian Supreme Court to review the verdict.