Iranian authorities hanged a man Monday, three months after he was convicted in the deaths of three police officers who were run over and killed by a bus driver during a protest by followers of a mystical Sufi strain of Islam.
The man, Mohammad Salas, was accused of being the bus driver involved in the officers’ deaths during protests in February by Gonabadi Dervishes, a sect that the clerical government has designated a challenge to mainstream Shiite theology.
Salas’ trial before a revolutionary court, in March, was broadcast live on state television — with the feed cut during his defense — and his execution was taken as a message to potential dissidents challenging authorities over rising prices.
Before the trial, the head of the Tehran Police had said that Salas was guilty of killing the three police officers and would be executed.
A campaign on social media, however, contended that Salas, a follower of the sect, could not have killed the officers because he was already under arrest when the bus rammed into the officers, and his supporters said there were witnesses who were willing to testify to that fact.
Salas’ lawyer, Zeynab Taheri, published an audio file on her Twitter account, in which a man, apparently her client, denies having been involved in the events that led to the deaths of the three police officers.
In the recording, he says he was severely beaten after his arrest.
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“I can’t even hurt a mouse,” he is heard saying.
More than 300 Gonabadi Dervishes remain in custody after the February protests, in northern Tehran, which were prompted by a rumor that the order’s 90-year-old leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh, would be arrested.
Tabandeh was once a deputy culture minister and the head of the group that organized the annual pilgrimage to Mecca for Iranian Muslims.
More recently, Tabandeh has begun to associate himself and his followers with dissidents, including Mehdi Karroubi, the 2009 presidential challenger who has been under house arrest for more than seven years after emerging as one of the leaders of what became known as the Green Revolution.
In 2008, graves considered sacred by the order were bulldozed by hard-liners, and there have been attacks on their religious centers in different cities.
“Mohammad Salas was executed, and this is a warning to the Gonabadi Dervishes,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, a political analyst close to the government. “If you commit a crime, you are not forgiven because you are united as a religious group.”
Source » nationalpost