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Sufi bus driver is hanged for running over cops.

The Islamic Republic has hanged a Sufi convicted of running down and killing three policemen with his bus. The United States condemned the execution, saying the trial was unfair.

Defenders of the executed man cited conflicting evidence, however. Some said he was actually in jail when the killings occurred while others said he maintained that the bus that killed the officers was not the bus driven by him.

The US State Department has often criticized Iranian judicial punishments, but it usually objects to executions before they are carried out. This time the State Department issued its critique hours after the hanging.

Mohammad Salas, 51, a member of the Gonabadi Dervish community, was arrested in February shortly after a Gonabadi protest in northern Tehran erupted in a mass riot in which five police officers were killed--three by being run over by a bus, one who was struck by a car and a fifth who was stabbed to death, according to the police.

Iran said Salas confessed to the bus killings, saying he didn't know what got into him.

But his supporters said the confession was coerced and that he later renounced it.

The State Department statement said, "Mr. Salas was reportedly denied access to a lawyer before and during his trial, which has been described by international monitors as "grossly unfair." Key defense witnesses who could have testified to the fact that Mr. Salas was already in custody at the time of the police officers' deaths were dismissed. Mr. Salas and his supporters maintained his innocence throughout, stating he had been tortured into a forced confession. The application of the death penalty, without affording Mr. Salas the fair trial and appeal guarantees to which he was entitled, is a clear violation to Iran's international human rights obligations."

In a statement issued the day before the hanging, the London-based Amnesty International described Salas's trial as "grossly unfair."

It said, "In their haste to do justice, the authorities have trampled all over this man's rights."

It said Salas was denied access to a lawyer before and during his trial and complained that the court dismissed "key defense witnesses who can testify that he was already in detention when the three policemen were killed."

However, the Center for Human Rights in Iran said it had obtained an audiotape from Salas's attorney May 22 in which Salas said, "I am innocent. There were two buses. I was not the driver of the bus that killed those people. I am not a killer. I cannot even kill an ant. My bus was not damaged and did not have any bullet marks. The police have fabricated all of this. I was not behind the wheel of the bus that killed those people. That was another bus."

Caption: HANGED--Mohammad Salas is seen during his trial prior to Now Ruz.

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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:Jun 22, 2018
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