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The Iranian regime targets young athletes for their support of the protests


More than 30 athletes have been detained on charges of serious crimes in the city of Shiraz, according to an Iranian outlet in exile. Footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani faces possible execution

Iranians "are already accustomed" to seeing in the official media of their country videos of detainees who confess before the cameras before their trials are held.

This is how Neda, an Iranian woman from the diaspora explains it to EL PAÍS who hides her identity under an invented name.

What is not so common is to recognize in these images someone with whom he has had contact "since he was a 10-year-old boy", as happened to Neda a few days ago.

The friend this woman saw on screen is Eshragh Najafabadi, a former member of Iran's national mountain biking and mountaineering teams, who appeared in a recording released by the semi-official Tasnim agency.

In it, this 30-year-old athlete acknowledges his participation in a plot to attack a homemade bomb in his country.

In the same video,


This Iranian website

in exile maintains that, only in the city of those five Iranians, the southern Shiraz, "more than 30 athletes have been kidnapped and detained by security forces."

Some of them and other athletes in the country face a probable execution by hanging.

The best known is the 26-year-old soccer player Amir Nasr-Azadani, prosecuted on charges of "enmity with God" and belonging to an armed group, to which a court in his country attributes the death of three paramilitaries of the Revolutionary Guard -the army parallel to the regular one whose objective is to protect the Islamic Republic and its leaders—, the International Federation of Professional Soccer Players Associations confirmed last Tuesday in a statement.

The athlete, who played in the first division of the Iranian league until the 2017-2018 season, was arrested on November 27 for participating in the demonstrations, where, according to his environment, he limited himself to chanting some protest slogans.

According to a source cited by


, Nasr-Azadani was not even present in the area where the three paramilitaries whose crime he is accused of were killed.

This Iranian outlet maintains that the court-appointed public defender told the footballer's family that the case against him was only intended to "cause fear."

The young man is one of 39 people facing imminent execution in Iran, according to the human rights organization in exile Iran Human Rights.

In 2019, prior to the ongoing protests against the Islamic regime — sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on 16 September — Amnesty International had already denounced a pattern “of solitary confinement, prolonged confinement, in solitude and threats to the relatives [of the detainees] to extract forced


on video" from those arrested, especially in the context of demonstrations such as those that have been taking place in Iran for almost three months after the death of Amini, which three days before she had been arrested for wearing her veil incorrectly.

Since its inception, 14,000 protesters, according to the UN, and 18,000, according to Iranian organizations in exile, have been detained.

Iran Human Rights puts the death toll from the repression at 458.

Iranian authorities are accusing five detained athletes from the southern city of Shiraz of plotting a bomb attack in the country. #truth #IranRevoIution2022 #Shiraz

— IranWire (@IranWireEnglish) December 14, 2022

"I had seen many confessions on television, but the condemned did not appear blindfolded and handcuffed," as in the video of the five athletes, Neda emphasizes.

Eshragh Najafabadi —accused of leading the alleged terrorist plot— appears dressed in a prisoner's uniform;

manacles bind their wrists to the arms of the chair.

His left hand seems almost lifeless, palm up, only the thumb moving.

“Eshragh injured that hand in a previous accident, but we believe it has probably now been broken during interrogation and torture.

We assume that this is why he is tied to the chair, ”emphasizes his friend, who defines the confession video as“ a farce ”, whose objective is to convict“ five innocent people ”.

According to a source cited by


these young people had published images of the demonstrations on their social networks before being arrested.

Since the start of the protests, the Iranian diaspora has denounced how the regime of the Islamic Republic has tried to prevent artists and athletes from becoming a loudspeaker for the protesters.

One of the cases that had the most repercussion was that of the climber Elnaz Rekabi, who competed without a veil in Seoul (South Korea) on October 16.

After returning to Iran, Rekabi attributed her gesture to a mistake, amid complaints from human rights groups that the athlete's family had suffered threats.

An "introverted guy"

Neda defines her friend Eshragh as “an introverted boy”, who goes everywhere by bike and was a member of the Iranian mountain bike team.

"Her brother of hers recounts that, on one occasion, he saved some firefighters who had gotten lost in the mountains of Shiraz from freezing to death, and whom he went out to look for at dawn," the woman explains.

In another video, posted on Twitter by that brother, the cyclist and mountaineer appears rescuing a child who had climbed up the vertical wall of a mountain.

#اشراق_نجف_آبادی کودکی را در مقابل چشمان نگران مادرش نقطه‌ای خطرناک میان صخره‌ها نجات می‌دهد.

#UnitedForIranianAthletes #EshraghNajafabadi

— Erfan (@ErfanNajafabadi) December 17, 2022

This athlete was arrested on October 30 in his city, at his dentist's office.

After his arrest, the police took him to his home, where they "didn't find anything" for him to confess,


claims .

According to Neda, the young man is being held in the Shiraz detention center of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The Tasnim agency, which released the video of his confession, is linked to that paramilitary organization.

“Eshragh already has a lawyer, but the authorities have not allowed him access to his file.

His father is not allowed to visit him and has only been able to speak briefly on the phone with him, ”neda deplores.

Eshraq Najafabadi

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2022-12-20

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