April 30 (Reuters) Iran was given a four-year ban by the International Judo Federation (IJF) for “repeated and very severe breaches” of the organisation’s statutes after it pressured one of its fighters not to face an Israeli athlete.

Judo’s world governing body imposed the ban on Thursday after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last month lifted a previous indefinite suspension and ordered a disciplinary review.

The IJF had previously sanctioned Iran in October for putting pressure on fighter Saeid Mollaei to withdraw from the world championships to avoid a potential final round against Israeli contender Sagi Muki.

Mollaei, a 2018 judo world champion, subsequently fled Iran – which does not recognise Israel’s existence – for Germany where he was granted refugee status, and later became a citizen of Mongolia.

Judoka Who Fled Iran over Israeli Matchup Wins Silver in Tel Aviv Grand Slam

Iran appealed the decision to CAS, which ruled that although Iran committed “severe violations”, the unlimited suspension imposed on the country had no legal basis and referred back to the IJF’s disciplinary commission for further decisions.

“The Disciplinary Commission considers that the status of IJF member of IRIJF should be provisionally withdrawn for a period of four years, i.e. a full Olympiad,” the IJF said in a statement.

The ban is backdated to start in 2019 and will run until 2023.

The IJF also said it “continues to defend fundamental human values and rights of all its members, with a special emphasis on the rights of athletes and reiterates its commitment to fight against any form of discrimination in the sport of Judo.”

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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