A prominent Sunni cleric was threatened with arrest and imprisonment by officials from the Ministry of Intelligence in Iran.
According to reports, Ustad Hossein Gorji, a Sunni cleric from Mahabad, West Azerbaijan province of Iran, was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence. Officials told him that if he continued teaching in mosques in Mahabad he would be arrested and imprisoned.
A source told the HRA News Agency, "Following the Ministry of Intelligence's threats and creation of fear and panic for the [Sunni] religious movements, this time a prominent [Sunni] cleric from Mahabad [was threatened]."
"Ustad Hossein Gorji, who is loved by the people and respected, and who is a literary and religious figure, was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence. They threatened him that if he continues teaching at mosques in Mahabad he will be arrested and imprisoned."
"Ustad Hossein Gorji has several works in the religious as well as literary field. So far, he has not been allowed to publish his work."
Mahabad, a city with a predominately Sunni-Kurdish population, has seen an growing crack-down on Sunni figures in recent weeks. In November, five Sunni Imams were summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and threatened, leading to the closure of Friday prayer services in two Sunni mosques.
A Sunni mosque in the town of Alek, Kurdistan province of Iran, was also forcibly closed in October after Intelligence agents threatened the Imam and prevented worshippers from entering the building.
The restrictions on worship for Sunni Muslims in the Shia-ruled Iran is widespread. Human Rights Watch issued a statement in November urging Iran to lift restrictions on Sunni worship, following incidents where Sunnis in Tehran were prevented by security forces from performing Eid prayers.
Prominent Sunni preachers and activists face persecution, arrest and even execution in Iran. In 2011, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) stated that "Sunni Muslim leaders regularly are intimidated and harassed by intelligence and security services."
"There were reports that 19 Sunni clerics had been arrested for spreading Sunni teachings in several parts of the country," the report continued, "their whereabouts are unknown."