Two men from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority who were active in preaching Sunni beliefs after converting from Shi’ism to Sunni Islam have been charged with ‘causing corruption on earth’, a charge which carries a possible death penalty in Iran.
According to the indictment issued by the Public Prosecutor of Mahshahr city, 23-year old Hossein Saboori and 25-year old Sami Zebady Alboghobesh, have also been charged with ‘having contact with foreign [Sunni] political organisations’ and ‘having Salafi beliefs’.
The Public Prosecutor of Mahshahr city has demanded that the men, who are currently held in Mahshahr’s Nava prison, face the heaviest sentence possible. The men will stand trial at the Revolutionary Court in Mahshahr, in the Khuzestan province of Iran.
The Iranian authorities have claimed that the two Sunni preachers were somehow involved in the burning down of a Husseiniya (a Shia place of worship) in Mahshahr earlier this year. The two men have strongly denied this accusation.
The Iranian authorities often falsely accuse Sunni preachers and activists of involvement in various incidents in an attempt to justify their arrest. In some cases, a single incident has been used as justification for the imprisonment of dozens of different Sunni activists.
One of the men, Hossein Saboori, along with his brother, had previously been detained in May 2014 by the Ministry of Intelligence on charges of ‘spreading propaganda against the state’, indicating that the latest charges are merely part of the Iranian government’s attempt to silence outspoken Sunni preachers who spread Sunni beliefs and criticize the Shia regime.
Hossein Saboori and Sami Alboghobesh were arrested by security forces in the town of Taleghani (al-Kora) in Mahshahr city, Khuzestan province, on 20 July 2014.
Both men were subjected to severe physical and psychological torture whilst in detention. Hossein Saboori suffered a broken hand as a result of the torture.
The men, who had converted from Shi’ism to Sunni Islam, were active in preaching Sunni beliefs within the Shia dominated Iran.
Hossein Saboori had regularly gathered youth from the Taleghani area and taught them the Qur’an and the Arabic language. Sami Alboghobesh had preached Sunni beliefs and was actively involved in meetings held to teach the Arabic language.
Although the majority of the population in the Khuzestan province is Shia, a large number have converted to Sunni Islam in recent years, causing alarm in the Shia-led Iranian government about the growth of Sunni Islam and leading to a brutal crackdown on Sunni preachers in the area.