Prominent Sunni cleric arrested in Iran's border province over 'inciting riots'

Prominent Sunni cleric arrested in Iran's border province over 'inciting riots'

Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Pakistan, is one of the most restive provinces of Iran

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

TEHRAN (AA) - A prominent Sunni cleric was arrested in southeastern Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province, the provincial judiciary office said in a statement on Sunday.

Maulvi Fathi Mohammad Naqshbandi is the Friday prayer leader in Raask town of the Sunni-majority province that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In a statement, the judiciary office in Sistan-Baluchestan said Naqshbandi has in recent months adopted "extreme positions and aligned himself with the opponents of the Islamic system."

The press release accused him of "inciting street riots" through his sermons, adding that he was given "necessary warnings" but "insisted on his wrong positions."

The charges against him include "disturbing public opinion through false speeches, slandering the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, acting against national security, and illegal occupation of land."

Naqshbandi as well as Zahedan Friday prayer leader Moulavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi have frequently made anti-government speeches in recent months, especially since last year's protests.

Last September, amid countrywide protests, at least 19 people were killed and 20 others wounded in violence after a group of armed protesters stormed a police station in Zahedan, the provincial capital.

The province has also witnessed several fatal attacks on security forces in recent months, which Iranian officials have blamed on local militant groups.

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