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The New Arab Staff

Iranian Paralympian 'facing possible execution' for criticising coronavirus restrictions

Wheelchair-bound Reza Tabrizi [Twitter/ Masih Alinjead]

Date of publication: 11 November, 2020

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Reza Tabrizi, a disabled bodybuilder and powerlifter, said it was 'hypocritical' to close gyms but allow religious shrines to remain open.

Ultra-conservatives in the northeast Iranian city of Mashhad have called on authorities to execute a paralympian bodybuilder who was arrested over an alleged social media post which criticised current coronavirus restrictions that require gyms to close but allow religious shrines to remain open.

Hardliners gathered in the Imam Reza shrine chanting slogans demanding capital punishment for those who "slandered" the Imams of Shia Islam.

Some cried out "death to Macron's stooge" in reference to wheelchair-bound Reza Tabrizi, who remains in custody.

Religious police, flanked by crowds of angry Basij-aligned militia fighters, arrested Tabrizi on Thursday. A video shared by Iranian activist Masih Alinjead shows police escorting him from his gym to a car as he struggled to walk.

Another video circulating on social media shows a man tearing down a sign outside a gym.

He is alleged to have described in an Istagram post authorities' measures to combat the third wave of the virus as "hypocritical" due to the religious shrine remaining open, according to media reports.

Despite later deleting the post and issuing an apology, authorities in the Islamic theocracy say the language used by Tabrizi in his initial post constituted an attack on Shia Islam.

Members of Tabrizi's family have made a number TV appearances and published letters in state-run media asking for him to be pardoned.

Reza Tabrizi won a silver medal for powerlifting at the 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships held in New Zealand, a qualifying event for the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

He is the brother of Muhsin Tabrizi, a world-champion bodybuilder who has won numerous regional and international accolades in the sport.

On Tuesday the total number of coronavirus cases surpassed 700,000 in the Middle East's worst affected country, with the daily death toll and number of new cases approaching record highs.

The Islamic Republic has responded by ordering all non-essential businesses to close at 6pm in all major cities.

Read also: Iran expands anti-virus measures as calls for lockdown grow

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