Ayatollah Ali Mohammad Dastgheib

Dissident Iranian cleric Ayatollah Dastgheib is speaking out against the judiciary for handing his students such harsh sentences.

On his website Hadis-e Sarv, the outspoken critic of the government writes that 10 of his seminarians who “defended themselves” in the Qods Day attack on the Ghoba Mosque by “plainclothes forces” have received sentences such as steep monetary fines, seven months in prison, exile from Shiraz and defrocking.

Ayatollah Dastgheib writes: “What is their sin that you have cut off their scholarships, are sending them for military service while also defrocking them and expelling them from prayers?”

The representative of Shiraz in the Assembly of Experts writes that each of these seminarians has at least about a thousand friends and relatives in the city who will hear of these actions. He adds: “You take these actions and dishearten people against the Islamic Republic and then say that it is my fault.”

Ayatollah Dastgheib says he has repeatedly advised officials that the system cannot be run in such a way. He insists that these sentences are “not Islamic” because the “charges against them were never established.”

In the past year, at least 42 of Ayatollah Dastgheib’s students and supporters in Shiraz have been arrested. The wave of arrests intensified last September after Ghoba Mosque, where the senior cleric gives his sermons, was attacked by plainclothes forces, who clashed with the seminarians there.

Ayatollah Dastgheib has repeatedly criticized the crackdown on protesters that followed the 2009 presidential elections, which the opposition claims were rigged in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Over the past year, such criticism led to attacks on Ayatollah Dastgheib’s home and office. The Ghoba Mosque was also shut down twice in the past year, preventing the dissident cleric from carrying out his sermons and mass prayers.