Several associates of Molavi Abdolhamid, the imam of southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan and Iran’s top Sunni leader, have been arrested by Iranian authorities. The arrests were confirmed by a media outlet close to the Revolutionary Guards, who accused the detainees of “disturbing public minds.”

Local news reports last week quoted unnamed sources as saying that a recent assassination attempt against Abdolhamid, orchestrated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), had been thwarted and the would-be perpetrator was arrested.

One June 27, the Tasnim News Agency, known for its close ties with the IRGC, dismissed the recent reports of a conspiracy to assassinate Abdolhamid as “rumors.”

The agency quoted what it said was an “informed source” as saying that “rumors” about an alleged plot to poison Abdolhamid that had been circulating on social media were fundamentally false.

The agency said several individuals were arrested for allegedly spreading the “rumors” and a judicial case was initiated against them.

The news of these arrests follows a report by the HAALVSH, a group that monitors rights violations in Iran’s Baluchistan region, about the “violent arrest” of Abdolhamid’s grandson, Abdolnassir Shahbakhsh, on June 27.

Shahbakhsh was reportedly arrested on his way to the Makki Mosque, which is run by Abdolhamid.

The same day, June 27, 23-year-old videographer and photographer Osama Shahbakhsh, who worked for the Makki Mosque, was taken into custody by security forces. The circumstances surrounding his arrest remain unclear.

On June 24, Abdolvahed Shahlibar, a prominent member of the Makki Mosque, was arrested following a summons to the prosecutor’s office. He was subsequently transferred to an undisclosed location.

These arrests come amid increasing pressure on Abdolhamid and his associates.

In December, a leaked document from the hard-line Fars agency said Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told security and military officials that rather than arresting Abdolhamid, who is a vocal critic of the government, they should try and smear his reputation.

The government has unleashed a brutal crackdown on the months of unrest — one of the deepest challenges to the Islamic regime since the revolution in 1979 — that erupted following the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini.

Abdolhamid has said senior officials, including Khamenei, were “responsible” for the killing of protesters during a November 30 massacre in Zahedan.

Since Amini’s death, more than 500 people have been killed in the police crackdown, according to rights groups. Several thousand more have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

Sunni Muslims are in the majority in Sistan-Baluchistan Province in southeastern Iran, where Abdolhamid is based, but make up only about 10 percent of the population in Shi’a-dominated Iran overall.

Source » rferl