Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (18 June) on the execution of the Iranian citizen Mohammad Salas, a Sufi and member of the Gonabadi Order:
I was deeply shocked to learn of the execution this morning of Mohammad Salas, an Iranian Sufi and member of the Gonabadi Order. He had been sentenced to death for allegedly driving a bus over over three police officers during the protests by thousands of dervishes in February. There are doubts that the dervish received a fair trial in accordance with rule of law principles.
Irrespective of this, the death penalty is a cruel form of punishment that the German Government rejects in all circumstances.
Moreover, I unequivocally condemn any discrimination on the basis of affiliation with a minority. This includes members of Sufi groups such as the Gonabadi Order.
I call on Iran to uphold the obligation arising from its ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect human rights regardless of an individual’s religion or ethnicity. Iran must release all those in prison because of their religious or political convictions without delay.
On 20 February 2018, around 1000 Gonabadi dervishes took part in protests in Tehran against the imprisonment of their 70 year old fellow believer Nematollah Rihai. The protests ended in violence, which included a bus being driven into a group of police officers. Several people died. According to the Tehran police, 30 people were injured and 300 dervishes arrested. Since the unrest, there are reports that many dervishes remain in prison or under house arrest. Human rights organisations say that the dervishes and their families are being subjected to brutality by the security forces, with reports of torture and abuse. Mohammed Raji, a member of the Gonabadi Order, died in prison.
Mohammad Salas, a member of the Order, was claimed to have driven the bus. After a controversial trial, he was convicted on multiple counts of murder. He was executed on 18 June 2018.
The dervishes in the Iranian Gonabadi Order, which has an estimated five million members in Iran, are part of the Twelver Shia, but reject all forms of political Islam. The order does not recognise the principle of the religious and political rule of the supreme authority on religious laws, the basis of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Members of the order are frequently persecuted and imprisoned because of their critical views on the Government, but also because of their social issues and human rights advocacy.