Five dervishes of the Sufi Gonabadi Order were arrested in the southern Iranian city of Dezful on December 13, 2016 after obeying a summons to appear at the prosecutor's office, their lawyer Kasra Nouri told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Gholamreza Abarkar, Masoud Majdinasab, Hassan Diapour, Ghassem Manegari and Mohammad Maleki had been summoned for "objecting to the disparagement of their beliefs," said Nouri.
The Gonabadi Order believes in a different interpretation of Islam than Iran's ruling Shia establishment and emphasizes peace and non-participation in politics. The Islamic Republic views any alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order and has imprisoned Gonabadi dervishes as part of an ongoing persecution campaign.
Nouri, who has also been imprisoned for being a dervish, added that the five dervishes were initially arrested at an exhibition honoring Sacred Defense Week (September 21-27, 2016) where films and videos disparaging their faith were shown. Some young clerics also gave insulting speeches. When the dervishes objected, the police intervened and it got "violent."
Several dervishes were detained but were freed after a few hours after their relatives protested outside the police headquarters in Dezful.
On November 9, 2016, the five dervishes were formally charged with "disturbing public order," "destruction of public property," "insulting the sacred" and "insulting senior officials," Nouri told the Campaign.
Their co-lawyer Ebrahim Shanbedi has meanwhile been ordered to appear in court next week for the charge of "disclosing the suspects' court documents," added Nouri.
From 2001 to 2005, Nouri, who administers the Gonabadi Order's website, was imprisoned for "propaganda against the state," "acting against national security," "insulting the supreme leader," "membership in the Majzooban-e Noor website majzooban.org," and "giving interviews to Radio Farda."
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