Sufi Bus Driver Sentenced to Death in Iran Says He Confessed to Killing Policemen While Under Torture
A Sufi bus driver who was sentenced to death in Iran for running over three policeman says he was forced to confess after being tortured while under interrogations, one of his lawyers informed the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 15, 2018.
“Mr. [Mohammad] Salas told me he was so stunned by the blows during interrogation that he was not aware of what was happening,” said attorney Zeinab Taheri after meeting Salas at Rajaee Shahr Prison near Tehran on May 14. “Extracting confessions like this has no legal validity.”
After the meeting on May 14 Taheri had tweeted, “Today Mohammad Salas revealed he was almost tortured to death by agents to the point that he suffered 17 skull fractures, nearly lost his sight and suffered serious hearing loss. He was forced to make confessions under these conditions.”
She added: “Mohammad Salas was convicted in an unlawful show trial without any regard for criminal procedures or his right to defend himself. A preliminary court convicted him of three unproven deliberate murders, which was then upheld by the Supreme Court as a formality without giving us a chance to collect evidence and present our arguments while the suspect was being held under the worst conditions in solitary confinement.”
Taheri also told CHRI that the legal battle to overturn his sentence is ongoing and she has filed a petition to the Supreme Court for a new trial.
On May 9, Salas’ other lawyer, Saeed Ashrafzadeh, said the order to carry out the execution had been issued and feared his client could be hanged within days.
On April 24, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against the 51-year-old bus driver for allegedly driving a public bus through a narrow street during clashes between security forces and members of the Sufi Gonabadi Order in Tehran on February 19. Three policemen died as a result of their injuries after they were run over by the bus.
Salas pled not guilty to the charge of “disturbing public order” and argued that the policemen’s deaths were accidental.
“I got into the bus to drive it toward the police station,” he said in his last defense on March 19. “I drove slowly so that the police could move aside. I flashed my headlights and honked the horn as I went forward. My foot was on the accelerator.”
Some 170 dervishes were hospitalized after police forces tried to shut down a demonstration in Tehran by members of the Sufi order on February 19 and 20.
At least one dervish died after being arrested. Mohammad Raji, a former IRGC commander and Iran-Iraq war veteran, passed away sometime between February 20 when he was detained, and March 4 when his body was identified by a relative.
The clashes broke out on February 19 after the police opened fire on a group of dervishes who were demanding the release of one of their fellow faith members from a police station in the Pasdaran neighborhood of Tehran near the home of the dervishes’ leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh.
The Gonabadi Dervishes’ interpretation of Islam differs from that of Iran’s ruling Muslim Shia establishment. The Islamic Republic views any alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the Shia majority population in Iran and has imprisoned dervishes and expelled them from universities as part of an ongoing persecution campaign.