(NewsNation) — A human rights expert told “NewsNation Live” on Thursday that execution is very much still on the table for Amir Nasr-Azadani — the 26-year-old Iranian professional soccer player currently facing the death penalty — despite being a high-profile individual.
“Unfortunately, the fact that he is a well-known athlete is no guarantee he will not be put to death,” Gissou Nia said.
Nia is the director of the Strategic Litigation Project at the Atlantic Council. She said that while Nasr-Azadani’s execution would be significant, he would not be the first famous Iranian to face a such a fate.
“Several years ago, Naveed Ascari, who was a wrestling champion in Iran, was executed,” Nia said.
Nasr-Azadani is currently facing the death penalty over protests challenging the country’s theocracy. Arrested last month for his alleged involvement in the killing of a police colonel, Nasr-Azadani was charged with “waging war against God” and has been sentenced to be hanged.
At least 488 Iranians have been killed since the demonstrations began in mid-September, according to human rights activists in Iran. Along with the deaths, there have been at least a dozen sentenced to execution in closed-door hearings, 18,200 detained by authorities and two executions thus far over crimes committed during the nationwide protests.
Additionally, Nia said because the trials are under the control of the Intelligence Ministry, they are often less than five minutes and use evidence obtained from forced confessions during interrogation under torture.
“International laws do provide a provision for execution, but it has to be for the most serious crimes, and it has to be after a fair trial, due process, appeals. None of that has happened here,” Nia said. “These are all moving forward in a way that’s really weaponizing judiciary for political purposes.”
Nia is calling for a worldwide effort to combat this trend.
“It is critically important to sound the alarm right now and make sure that a strong political signal is sent to the Islamic Republic for them to stop the executions of all these young people,” Nia said.
“We think that countries that have diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic immediately need to recall their ambassadors for consultations and also downgrade their diplomatic relations in a coordinated manner to send a strong signal and put an end to the deaths.”