Sufi Bus Driver on Death Row in Iran Denies Killing Policemen in Audio File Released by Lawyer
Mohammad Salas’ Attorney Zeynab Taheri Summoned to Court to Face Charges
The lawyer of Tehran-based death row prisoner Mohammad Salas has released an audio file in which he denies driving the bus that killed three policemen in Tehran in February 2018.
Salas, a member of the Sufi Gonabadi Order in Iran known as the Gonabadi Dervishes also claimed there was a second bus involved.
“I am innocent. There were two buses. I was not the driver of the bus that killed those people. I am not a killer. I cannot even kill an ant. My bus was not damaged and did not have any bullet marks. The police have fabricated all of this. I was not behind the wheel of the bus that killed those people. That was another bus,” said the voice of the man identified as Salas by his lawyer.
Salas’ attorney Zeynab Taheri posted the audio on her Twitter account on May 22, 2018.
On April 24, Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Salas, 51, for allegedly driving a public bus through a narrow street during clashes between security forces and the dervishes in Tehran on February 19, killing the policemen.
Taheri previously told CHRI that Salas was tortured while being interrogated and submitted a coerced confession as a result.
“If I had defended myself in court, they would have killed me,” said the voice in the audio file. “I was too afraid to talk. They had beaten me for two hours in the police station but all I said was: ‘It wasn’t me.’ They said ‘beat him until he dies and we’ll say he died during the clashes.’ I tried to confuse the police so that they wouldn’t kill me.”
“They smashed my head in 17 places with batons,” continues the voice. “My brain has been smashed. I get dizzy. I’ve lost my memory. I had memorized the poems of Rumi and Hafez but I don’t remember anything.”
Two days after posting the audio file on Twitter, Taheri tweeted that she had been summoned to the Culture and Media Court to face the charges of “disturbing public opinion’” and “spreading falsehoods.”
She has not provided further updates on her case.
On February 19 and 20, 2018, hundreds of dervishes were attacked in front of a police station in Tehran while protesting for the release of a fellow dervish who was being held there.
Websites run by the dervishes reported that 170 people were hospitalized during the clashes in February.
At least one dervish—Mohammad Raji, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—died sometime between February 20 when he was detained at the protests and March 4 when his body was identified by a relative.
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 prevailing Shia establishment and has imprisoned members of the Sufi order and expelled them from university because of their religious beliefs.