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Long Prison Terms for Editors of Dervish News Outlet in Iran

Majzooban Noor, an Iranian news outlet covering Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, says two of its editors, Reza Entesari, right, and Mostafa Abdi, left, have received lengthy prison terms for involvement in February anti-government protests in Tehran.

An Iranian news outlet focusing on Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish minority says two of its editors have received lengthy prison sentences for involvement in anti-government protests in February.

In a tweet posted Thursday, Majzooban Noor said a Tehran Revolutionary court sentenced news editor Reza Entesari to seven years in prison, 74 lashes, two years of exile in the northeastern city of Khaf, a two-year ban on leaving the country and a two-year ban on political and media activity.

In an earlier tweet published Wednesday, the news outlet said another of its editors, Mostafa Abdi, received an even tougher punishment from a Tehran Revolutionary court.

It said Abdi was sentenced to 26 years and three months in prison and 148 lashes, in addition to two years of exile in the southeastern province of Sistan Baluchistan and two-year bans on leaving the country and engaging in political and media activity.

Iranian authorities arrested Entesari and Abdi, both Dervishes, during anti-government street protests by Iranian Dervishes in Tehran. The February 19-20 protests escalated into violent confrontations with security forces, who arrested more than 300 people. Five security personnel were killed in the clashes.

Majzooban Noor said Entesari and Abdi were beaten by plainclothes security forces at the protests before being interrogated and detained at the Great Tehran Penitentiary.

Dervishes involved in the February protests had been demanding the release of arrested members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. Members of the Sufi Muslim religious sect long have complained of harassment by Iran’s Shiite Islamist rulers, who view them as heretics.

In a phone interview with VOA Persian’s Late News program on Thursday, a Turkey-based editor of Majzooban Noor said six of the news outlet’s contributors recently have received prison terms totaling 71 years.

“There is no reason for them to have been given such heavy sentences other than the fact that the Iranian government is trying to apply pressure on us to shut down Majzooban Noor, which is the central news source of the Dervishes,” said Alireza Roshan, an Iranian Dervish writer and poet.

Roshan said Majzooban Noor has brought international attention to what it sees as human rights violations by Iranian authorities against the Dervishes, including dozens of women detained in February’s crackdown on the Dervish protests. He said the Iranian government has not accused Majzooban Noor of any illegal activity that could warrant the apparent effort to silence the news outlet.

There was no comment on the sentencing of the Majzooban Noor news editors in Iranian state-run media.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian Service.