The top religious leader of Iran’s Sunni minority has written to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to express his community’s concern over reports of a “secret order” issued by the country’s Judiciary to speed up the execution of Sunni death-row prisoners. Parts of the letter was published on the website of Mavlana Abdolhamid, the most prominent spiritual leader of Iranian Sunnis in the country’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan Province. He called on Khamenei to address the “Sunni community’s concerns,” and added that the latest spate of executions of Sunnis convicted on drugs-related charges reinforces the notion that the Judiciary’s directive actually exists.

Comment: The Sunni minority in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan has suffered discrimination as well as economic and political marginalization for decades. The drugs-related prisoners facing execution in Iran are disproportionately from the Sunni community. Abdolhamid, who is also the Friday Prayer leader of Sunnis in Zahedan, the capital city of restive Sistan and Baluchestan Province, has outspokenly voiced the community’s legitimate grievances for many years. His letter to Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters, came after Iranian reformist media outlets reported that Iran’s repressive Judiciary has called for a speedy execution of drugs-related convicts so that they will not be included in the upcoming parliamentary legislation that intends to end death penalty for prisoners convicted of minor drugs-related offenses. One reformist outlet claimed at least 50 Sunnis will be executed as part of the Judiciary’s latest order. Last year, an Iranian lawmaker revealed that about 5,000 prisoners were awaiting execution in Iranian jails, and 90 percent of them were first-time drugs offenders between the ages of 20 and 30.

The Amnesty International Report 2016/17 released this week blasted the Iranian regime’s acts of “discrimination and persecution” against “members of religious and ethnic minorities,” including the Sunni community. The report also condemned Iran’s alarming rate of execution of drugs-related convicts after “unfair trials.”

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