The American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the former United States acting director of national intelligence has joined calls to ban Iran from the Olympics after the execution of wrestling champion Navid Afkari. The AJC has announced a campaign to expel the nation from the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games for its abysmal abuse of athletes.

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β€œTo let Iran to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games would be to signal approval of the country’s gross and systematic violations of human rights,” the AJC said.

Barring Iran would send an influential message that athletes are to be endangered, that sport is to be skillful freely and that discrimination and abuse by any country that is part of the Olympic family will not be tolerated. Only therefore will the Olympic spirit, a spirit of peace, freedom, and coexistence, truly be upheld.

Afkari was hanged on September 12 after being convicted of murder following demonstrations against the Government two-years-ago, in the southern city of Shiraz. It has prompted a huge outcry in sport and the wider world, with claims he was tortured into making a false confession. 

Human-rights groups and activists believe Afkari was unjustly targeted by the Iranian authorities to intimidate others who might choose to participate in peaceful protests. United States President Donald Trump was among those to appeal for clemency.

Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence in the US, also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to omit Iran from Tokyo 2020. For engagement to work, there also needs to be moments where you say, ‘this has crossed the line so much that you don’t get to participate in the international community, Grenell told Outports media. Grenell had previously said the IOC should investigate the execution of Afkari before it happened.

The IOC had replied to these calls, stating: “The IOC is aware of the case of Navid Afkari and has, like United World Wrestling (UWW), taken steps to follow up on the matter.”

Other sporting cases highlighted include former world judo champion Saeid Mollaei, who fled the country after he reportedly defied Iranian team orders to lose intentionally during the defense of his title. This was because he was due to face an Israeli athlete, Sagi Muki.

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Taekwondo’s Kimia Alizadeh, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, defected from the country earlier this year after citing sexism on the part of officials. According to a 2008 Wikileaks cable examined by the Jerusalem Post, Iran’s regime has executed between 4,000 and 6,000 people since 1979.

However, both IOC and UWW officials have hinted that any sort of sanction on the country is unlikely with sporting bodies reluctant to involve themselves in what they view as political matters. The difficulty for us is this execution didn’t relate to a sporting event, IOC vice-president John Coates said earlier this month.

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