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Iran sentences young footballer to 16 years for ‘enmity against God’

Iran’s regime sentenced a young footballer to 16 years of imprisonment for “enmity against God,” several news outlets reported yesterday. The footballer, 26 year old Amir Nasr-Azadani, participated in protests against Iran’s theocratic regime last year, which began after Iranian authorities murdered a young woman for allegedly showing too much of her hair.

Nasr-Azadani was found guilty of “partaking in enmity against God” in relation to the killing of three security officers in the city of Isfahan on November 16, according to Iranian state media.

He was charged with “rebellion, membership in illegal gangs, collusion to undermine security and therefore assisting in Moharebeh [waging war against God].”

It has now been reported that Nasr-Azadani will be sentenced to 16 years in prison, while three other protesters were sentenced to death in the hearing. The three other protesters are Saleh Mirhashemi, Majid Kazemi and Saeed Yaghoubi. The rulings are preliminary and can be appealed in the Supreme Court, Sky News reported.

Authorities had previously sentenced Nasr-Azadani to death, however, international attention appears to have helped to pressure Iranian authorities to not execute him.

Sources for IranWire, a pro-opposition outlet, said last month that Nasr-Azadani was never in the area where the authorities were killed. It was reported that Nasr-Azadani’s relatives said security forces had threatened them. Reports have suggested that Nasr-Azadani’s confession was coerced.

A former teammate of Nasr-Azadani, Finnish footballer Sebastian Strandvall, told Sky News that Nasr-Azadani is a “normal, good guy.” Strandvall said…

“Knowing Amir’s character, he would go to a protest… he and his friends would stand up for basic rights, for women’s rights of course because he is the sort of person who cares about others. But I don’t see him doing a war on God or anything.”

The tribunals of Iranians accused of participating in protests have been highly criticised. Those accused are not allowed to choose their lawyers or even see the evidence against them.

The news of Nasr-Azadani’s prison sentence, and the death sentences of other protesters, comes as Iran continues to execute the courageous women and men who refuse to bow down to the regime. On Saturday, the regime executed a 22 year old karate champion, Mohammad Mehdi Karami, and Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, a volunteer children’s coach.

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Tara Abhasakun

A Thai-American dual citizen, Tara has reported news and spoken on a number of human rights and cultural news issues in Thailand. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in history from The College of Wooster. She interned at Southeast Asia Globe, and has written for a number of outlets. Tara reports on a range of Thailand news issues.