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Lawyer For Iranian Sufi Dervishes Detained


Iranian Lawyer Farshid Yadollahi, who is representing Mostafa Daneshjou.

Iranian Lawyer Farshid Yadollahi, who is representing Mostafa Daneshjou.

A lawyer who has represented Sufi dervishes pressured by Iranian authorities has been detained at his office in northern Iran, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Mostafa Daneshjou was taken away on May 18 to an unknown location by 10 plainclothes security agents, Daneshjou's lawyer, Farshid Yadollahi, told Radio Farda.

Yadollahi added that the Intelligence Ministry Office in the town of Behshahr had previously filed a complaint against Daneshjou because of a case in which he represented two Sufi dervishes from the Nematollahi Gonabadi order.

Daneshjou was originally sentenced to seven months in jail in January 2010 after being found guilty of libel, insult, and spreading lies.

Daneshjou was represented at the time by Yadollahi and Amir Eslami.

Yadollahi said Daneshjou was later acquitted of the first two charges, but an appeals court upheld his seven-month sentence.

"The reason for his detention today is unclear so far, but it might be related to that sentence," Yadollahi said.

Yadollahi said the lawyers of dervishes are subjected to even greater pressure from the judicial system than the dervishes themselves, because their work on dervishes' cases often highlights the fact that the arrests of the dervishes are unlawful.

Yadollahi and Eslami have also represented dervishes. In January 2010, they were both sentenced to six months in prison on charges of "acting against national security, spreading lies, and stirring up public opinion."

There have long been tensions between dervishes -- a fraternity within the Sufi tradition -- and those who favor a more conservative interpretation of Islam.

But Sufi officials and human rights groups say the harassment of Sufis has significantly increased since President Mahmud Ahmadinejad took office in August 2005.

Many Sufis have been sentenced to lashings and imprisonment, and several of their houses of worship and cemeteries have been destroyed. In 2009, a Gonabadi house of worship was demolished in Isfahan.

The U.S. State Department noted in its most recent report on religious freedom that there was "growing government repression" of Sufi communities and religious practices in Iran.
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