Athletes Appeal to Save Life of Wrestler on Death Row
On January 9, 2021, a press report was published in Iran about the imminent execution of 29-year-old wrestler Mehdi Ali-Hosseini for a murder he allegedly committed five years ago.
He was scheduled to be executed on January 10 but was granted a week to seek a pardon from the victim’s family and escape the gallows, his brother Hamzeh Ali-Hosseini told the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
“The family of the late Gholami-Gheibi is not allowing us to come to their home but elders have stepped in and spoken to the family and we hope, with the grace of God, they will consent to a pardon,” Hamzeh said. “The reaction from the athletic community and attempts by champion wrestlers to contact the victim’s family has been very helpful.”
Mehdi Ali-Hosseini earned the top Greco-Roman title among prisoners in the country, according to Hamid Sourian, deputy chairman of Iran’s Wrestling Federation.
“To please God, I appeal to [the victim’s father] Dr. [Habib] Gholami-Gheibi, one of the prominent physicians in Dezful, to forgo retribution against Mehdi Ali-Hosseini so that this young athlete, who has committed a grave mistake, gets a second chance at life,” said Sourian, who has seven Olympic and world wrestling titles.
The director-general of the non-profit organization Global Athlete, Rob Koehler, tweeted on January 9: “The @Olympics and @wrestling must immediately sanction the Iran NOC and the wrestling federation to save the life of Mehdi Ali Hosseini. [Fellow wrestler] Navid [Afkari] was murdered on 12 Sept; the IOC and UWW have turned their back. Take action now before it’s too late.”
Habibollah Akhlaghi, another well-known Iranian wrestler, also called for mercy.
“Unfortunately what Mehdi Ali-Hosseini did a few years ago was a regretful mistake that happened in the spur of the moment and I beg the Gholami-Gheibi family to pardon this young man in a show of mercy to please God,” Akhlagi said in an interview with ISNA.
Mehdi Ali-Hosseini was arrested soon after a botched robbery of the home of Dr. Gheibi-Gholami in Dezful, southwest Iran, on January 17, 2006, during which time his son (name not released) was shot and killed, a friend of Ali-Hosseini told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on the condition of anonymity on January 12, 2021.
“During these five years we were very hopeful that Mehdi would be pardoned,” said the friend. “We didn’t expect to suddenly hear the news that he is seriously going to be executed.”