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Dervishes' Lawyers Jailed In Iran, Rights Group Cries Foul

Iranian dervishes dance their collective dance
Iranian dervishes dance their collective dance
Three Iranian lawyers who recently defended Sufi dervishes have been sentenced to jail in a case an international rights group says highlights mounting pressure on human rights lawyers, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Farshid Yadollahi and Amir Eslami were sentenced last week to six months in prison by a penal court on Kish Island in southern Iran. Mostafa Daneshjou was sentenced to seven months in jail by a court in the northern province of Mazandaran.

The three were found guilty of "acting against national security, spreading lies, and agitating public opinion."

The New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights In Iran said on January 26 that the three had been convicted for investigating unlawful actions by Iranian security agencies and despite a lack of "proof of mal-intention in their actions."

Yadollahi told Radio Farda on January 22 that the charges against him and his fellow attorneys are politically motivated. He said it is illegal to convict and sentence them. He said he was also found guilty of forging power of attorney documents.

Additionally, Yadollahi said that "there is no article in Iran's constitution or the Islamic punishment law which says being a Sufi dervish is a crime."

He added that the authorities do not want any lawyers to investigate the many cases against dervishes because they reveal their "unlawfulness." He said that is why "the dervishes' lawyers, more than their clients, are under pressure from security bodies."

The dervishes who were represented by the lawyers were acquitted of the charges against them.

Yadollahi, who is himself a member of the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi Muslim community, said Intelligence Ministry officials have also pressed charges against him because of the interviews he gave to Radio Farda.

The Gonabadi dervishes have been complaining of increased state pressure. In recent years Sufis have been sentenced to lashings and imprisoned. Several of their houses of worship have been demolished by authorities.

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