Article taken from sunniprisonersiran.com. We have only bolded and underlinded some parts in this post. Please note that this is not some isolated case. Conversion to Sunni Islam is increasingly common among Ahwazi Arabs and lately even among ethnic Persians from major citiies such as Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan etc.
In this shocking court indictment you can read first-hand how the Iranian authorities attempt to criminalize Sunni religious activities such as holding Qur’an study meetings and performing congregational prayers.
Bizarrely, even celebrating Eid “at the same time that it was announced in Saudi Arabia” was mentioned by the court as ‘evidence’ that the defendants had engaged in “propaganda” against the state.
The court’s blatant discrimination against the defendants’ Sunni beliefs was further illustrated by its decision to sentence the men to obligatory participation in Shia religious rituals.
Also note the court’s use of phrases such as ‘Wahhabi’ and ‘Salafi’, terms that are commonly used in a derogatory manner by the Iranian authorities in reference to practicing Sunni Muslims.
Four Sunni converts from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority were sentenced to imprisonment and compulsory participation in Shia rituals by Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Ahwaz, after being accused of “engaging in propaganda against the state’s official religion [Shi’ism].”
The men, who had left Shi’ism and converted to Sunni Islam, were detained and transferred to Karoon Prison in Ahwaz after their sentences were confirmed by the Court of Appeals on 15 May 2014.
The men were also sentenced to mandatory participation in Shia rituals, and “are required to attend Shia mosques and religious places, and to participate and actively engage in their [Shia] religious ceremonies, with the approval of [Shia] community Imams and local authorities, and to report their actions for two years.”
In a worrying move, the court’s indictment appeared to criminalize the men’s legitimate religious activities and suggested that the ‘real purpose’ of their activities was to commit ‘propaganda’.
According to the indictment, published by the Al Arabiya Farsi news website, the men were accused of “changing their religion and orienting towards Sunni Islam as well as the Wahhabi sect.”
The Iranian authorities routinely use terms such as ‘the Wahhabi sect’ and ‘Salafism’ in a derogatory manner in reference to practicing Sunni Muslims, in an attempt to influence public opinion against them.
The indictment also claimed that the men had “engaged in propaganda against the state’s official religion” by allegedly forming groups “under the pretext of holding home meetings to read the Qur’an and holding congregational prayers.”
The indictment further alleged that the men had “engaged in propaganda” by “performing Friday prayers and Eid prayers according to the Sunni method; and [celebrating Eid] at the same time that it was announced in Saudi Arabia.”
The court also cited the discovery of books and leaflets about Sunni Islam, which it claimed “contained educational materials about the Wahabi sect”, in an attempt to justify their imprisonment.
The four men, Haider Sayahi, Hamed Sayahi, Jafar Sayahi and Tofiq Magtai Zadeh, were arrested last year along with 16 other Sunni converts.
Text from the indictment, as published by the Al Arabiya Farsi news website, has been translated into English below:
“This collection, through changing their religion; orienting towards Sunni Islam as well as the Wahhabi sect; (as mentioned in the sentence); by forming groups and communities in different regions in the city of Ahwaz, especially in the area of Zargan under the pretext of [holding] home meetings to read the Qur’an and holding congregational prayers; performing Friday prayers and Eid prayers [according to] the Sunni method; and [celebrating Eid] at the same time as it was announced in Saudi Arabia; in certain areas, [these individuals] have engaged in propaganda against the official religion of the country, and have created doubts in the people’s religious beliefs.”
“According to the Abolfazl al-Abbas security headquarters in Ahwaz, these individuals also communicated with Sunni figures (Salafi as mentioned in the sentence) in the Western provinces of the country such as Kurdistan; others encouraged and persuaded similar acts in other regions; and by supplying books and leaflets containing educational materials about the Wahhabi sect and transferring it to Ahwaz; [these individuals have] engaged in propaganda against the state’s official religion.”
“Upon this, the court turns its attention to the numerous intelligence reports and the extensive investigation. Considering the educational sessions and religious ceremonies that were held according to the Sunni method, which implies that it’s [real] purpose was propaganda, and also the discovery of relevant books and leaflets, the defendants have been found guilty.”
“And document for the record while sentencing [that in accordance with] Article 500 of [Iranian] Penal Code Act 1996, books and leaflets were discovered as tools to commit a crime, therefore each defendant is to be sentenced to imprisonment for one year.”
“In addition, in accordance with the type of crime committed, the condition and characteristics of the defendants, Article 23 of the [Iranian] Penal Code Act 2009 is cited at sentencing, to prohibit their participation in communication with Salafi and Wahabi elements, and participating in their meetings. [Furthermore,] they are required to attend Shia mosques and religious places, and to participate and actively engage in their [Shia] religious ceremonies, with the approval of [Shia] community Imams and local authorities, and to report their actions for two years.”
There has been no news about the condition of ten Sunni men who are being held at an unknown location since their arrest a month ago in the cities of Bukan and Mahabad, West Azerbaijan province of Iran.
The men have not been allowed to contact their family, and there is no news about their charges or location.
According to reports, the families of the detainees have visited the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in Bukan and Mahabad a number of times, in an attempt to find out news about the men.
In a concerning move, officials informed the families in a recent visit that the men had been arrested due to celebrating Eid on the same day that it was marked in Sunni Arab countries, instead of celebrating on the same day that it was marked in the Shia-ruled Iran.
A source told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), “The families of these ten people visited the office of the Ministry of Intelligence after a month of uncertainty and without news [of the detainees].”
“When they asked the officials what the crimes of these people were, their reply to them was: ‘they organized congregational prayers, and they performed Eid prayers for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in accordance with [Sunni] Arab countries, one day earlier [compared to Iran].”
The families’ agonizing wait for news about their loved ones looks set to continue, after receiving contradictory information about their location.
The families were first informed that the detainees had been transferred to Tehran, before being told that they had been returned to Urumiah. In a visit to the Ministry of Intelligence around two weeks ago, the families were told that the men would be released ‘in a few days’. That, however, has proven to be false.
“We think this claim is not true,” a source had told the HRA News Agency, “it is just a way to psychologically torment the families of the detainees.”
Abdol Rahim Chana, Soran Fatahi and Abdol Hadi Azrem were arrested on 18 April 2014. Masoud Javadi, Namegh Doldol, Mohammad Rasoolizadeh, Mohammad Mohammadi and Ibrahim Rasooli were arrested on 19 April 2014. Jafar Ghafoori and Ibrahim Ghadri Far were arrested on 22 April 2014. All ten men were active in practicing Sunni Islam.