FIFPRO, the world union of professional footballers, said it was “shocked and sickened” by the possibility that Iranian footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani could be sentenced to death because of protests that have been going on for three months and have shaken the country.
Nasr-Azadani was arrested in the city of Isfahan two days after he allegedly took part in a “armed riot” on September 16 in which three security agents were killed, said Abdullah Jafari, the head of Isfahan’s judiciary, who was quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency on Sunday.
Jafari said that the 26-year-old man was accused of “rebellion, membership in illegal gangs, collusion to undermine security, and helping in “emnity against God,” which is a capital crime in the Islamic republic.”
“FIFPRO is shocked and sickened by reports that professional footballer Amir Nasr-Azadani could be put to death in Iran for fighting for women’s rights and basic freedom in his country,” the union wrote on its Twitter page late Monday.
“We stand with Amir and want his punishment to stop right away,” they said.
The alarm comes after two young men arrested during the protests were put to death by Iran in the past few days.
Nasr-Azadani played for the national team when he was 16 years old. He started his football career with the Tehran team Rah-Ahan, with whom he played in Iran’s top league for the first time.
The defender played for Tractor SC for a short time while former Wales coach John Toshack was in charge. He is now with FC Iranjavan Bushehr.
Ali Karimi, who used to play for Iran on the national team and was a big supporter of the protests, tweeted his support for the footballer by saying, “Do not kill Amir.”
The Iranian national team played in the World Cup in Qatar. In their first game, against England, they didn’t sing the national anthem as a protest.
But they went back to singing the anthem before games against Wales and the United States.
Iran is facing protests because of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, on September 16. She died after being arrested by morality police for allegedly not following the strict dress code for women in the Islamic republic.
Amnesty International says that 11 people have been sentenced to death because of the protests, and at least 9 more, including Nasr-Azadani, are at risk of getting the same sentence.
Iran says the protests are riots and that its foreign enemies are behind them.
Voria Ghafouri, a well-known former international star, was arrested in Iran last month after he supported the protests and spoke out against the crackdown. He was later freed on bail, though.