Ali Motahari

Iranian MP Ali Motahari said in Parliament that the role of Sunni religious leaders and elders in negotiating the release of the abducted border officers should not be overlooked.

“On the issue of release of the border officers, certainly security and intelligence officers had a fundamental role, but this should not deny the part Sunni religious leaders played in it,” Ali Motahari said in Parliament on Tuesday April 8.

Five Iranian border officials were abducted last February in the Sistan-Baluchistan border regions with Pakistan, and the Sunni militant group Jeysh-ol-Adl later took responsibility for it.

In March, the group announced that it has executed one of the captives, identified as Jamshid Danaifar. On Sunday, all hostages save Danaifar were released and returned to Iranian territory.

Motahari pointed out that Mowlavi Abdolhamid, Zahedan’s Friday Mass Imam, sent a delegation that included his own son-in-law to negotiate the release of the soldiers, and on the way back home, his son-in-law was killed in an accident.

Motahari stressed that Mowlavi Abdolhamid has refuted rumours that the government caused the accident and even announced in his Friday Mass sermon that the incident had been an accident.

Some hardliners have spoken out against the involvement of Sunni religious leaders in the release of border officials, saying it legitimizes the actions of Jeysh-ol-Adl and raises the question how they could in effect make contact with the group.