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U.S. Condemns Iran's Execution Of Sufi Man In Police Killing Case

Mohammad Reza Salas, a member of the Iranian Gonabadi Dervish sect accused of killing police officers, at a court hearing in March.

The United States has condemned Iran's execution of a Sufi man who was convicted of killing three police officers during clashes between police and a Sufi sect in February.

The Iranian judiciary said Mohammad Reza Salas, 51, was hanged early on June 18.

"Salas’s rushed execution is the latest example of the Iranian regime’s disregard for the human rights of its citizens," Heather Nauert, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said in a statement late on June 18.

Nauert cited reports that Salas was denied access to a lawyer and said his trial was “grossly unfair,” excluding witnesses who could have testified that Salas was already in custody at the time of the police officers’ deaths.

Salas's supporters have said he maintained his innocence but claimed he was tortured into a forced confession.

"The application of the death penalty, without affording Mr. Salas the fair trial and appeal guarantees to which he was entitled, is a clear violation to Iran’s international human rights obligations," Nauert said.

"We call on our partners and allies around the world to join us in condemning the brutal and unjust execution," she said.

Nauert further called on Iranian authorities to "release the hundreds of Sufis who remain imprisoned on account of their beliefs, including the leader of the Gonabadi Sufis, Dr. Noor Ali Tabandeh, 91, who has been under house arrest for at least the past four months and is in need of immediate medical care."

"The Iranian people deserve rule of law, transparent and accountable governance, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, not the callous impunity that continues to define the regime," she said.

The Salas case centered on the deaths of three officers who were run over by a bus during battles between security forces and followers of one of Iran’s largest Sufi orders in Tehran in February.

Followers of the Nemattolah Gonabadi order, known as dervishes, were protesting the arrest of members of the sect. Some 300 dervishes were reportedly arrested following the violence.

Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is not illegal in Iran but rights groups accuse the Iranian government of harassment and discrimination against its followers.

With reporting by AP