Iranian Lawyer Arrested For Claiming Executed Sufi Man's Innocence

Iranian authorities have arrested a lawyer for spreading "lies" after claiming that a Sufi man executed this week was wrongfully convicted of killing three police officers, local media report.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said on June 20 that an arrest warrant was issued against Zeinab Taheri for making "false statements" and because of "her lies propagated online claiming [Mohammad Salas] was not guilty."

The judiciary chief for Tehran Province, Gholamhossein Esmaili, was quoted as saying that Taheri was never a lawyer for Salas and did not have reliable information on the case.

Salas, 51, was hanged near Tehran early on June 18 after being convicted of killing three police officers during clashes involving members of a Sufi order, despite calls to stop his execution.

Taheri has been a vocal advocate for Salas by publicly denouncing the unfairness of his trial.

On the day of the execution, posts from a Twitter account bearing Taheri's name said it would "reveal for public opinion all possible" evidence of his innocence -- later stating it would not do so over requests from the family, AFP news agency reported.

In a statement condemning Taheri's arrest, Amnesty International described her as Salas's lawyer.

"Her arrest exposes yet again the Iranian authorities' relentless persecution of lawyers who speak out against torture and unfair trials," Philip Luther, research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa at the London-based group, said.

A statement released by Human Rights Watch earlier this week also presented Taheri as Salas's lawyer.

The statement, which addresses "serious allegations of torture to force confessions," refers to an interview Taheri gave with another nongovernmental organization in which the lawyer claims that Salas was violently beaten in prison.

Salas was sentenced in March following what Amnesty International described as a "grossly unfair trial."

The man was found guilty of killing three officers who were left dead in Tehran in February after they were run over by a bus during battles between security forces and followers of one of Iran's largest Sufi orders, the Nemattolah Gonabadi order.

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

Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam, is not illegal in Iran but rights groups accuse the Iranian government of harassment and discrimination against their followers, including the Gonabadis, known as dervishes.

Taheri has also defending Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalili, who was sentenced to death last year for spying for Israel and is at risk of execution.

With reporting by AP and AFP