Lawyer: Dervish Bus Driver Could be Executed in “3 or 4 Days” Despite Innocence Plea
Mohammad Salas, a Sufi bus driver convicted in Iran of running over three policemen in the capital city of Tehran, could be hanged in a “few days” despite arguing that he caused the deaths by accident.
“News that the execution has been carried out is completely false but the order to carry out his sentence has been issued and … he could be executed in the next three or four days,” his attorney Saeed Ashrafzadeh told the state-funded Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on May 9, 2018.
The report added that Salas told his son during a three-minute phone conversation that he is “innocent” and had run over the policemen by accident.
“They should pay attention to this in the judicial review,” said Salas according to ISNA. “I didn’t do it on purpose. I wasn’t myself.’”
On April 24, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against the 51-year-old bus driver for 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.”
Before his trial, Tehran Police Chief Gen. Hossein Rahimi publicly stated that Salas would be swiftly hanged for causing the policemen’s deaths.
“With the coordination that has taken place with the judiciary, the bus driver that drove over the policemen will be punished by hanging before the end of the [Iranian] year [March 20, 2018],” he said on March 1.
Iranian law enforcement and security agencies reportedly opened fire on the February protests by the Gonabadi Dervishes, a religious minority in Iran that has suffered discrimination and persecution under the Islamic Republic because of its alternative belief system.
Some 170 dervishes were hospitalized and several arrested after police forces tried to shut down a demonstration in Tehran by the dervishes between February 19 and 20. The protesters were demanding the release of one of their faith’s followers from police detention.
At least one dervish died after being arrested. Mohammad Raji, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and an 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.