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Formerly Imprisoned Lawyer and Religious Minority Activist Expelled From University Without Explanation

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CHRI - Mostafa Daneshjou, a formerly imprisoned lawyer and member of a Sufi religious order known as the Gonabadi Dervishes, has been expelled from university without explanation, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.

"I think the reason why they expelled me was my belief in the Gonabadi order," Daneshjou told CHRI. "I have always defended the dervishes and I spent almost four years in prison for it."

"I think that's why the Intelligence Ministry is taking away my rights," he added. "Usually these expulsion orders are issued by the Intelligence Ministry's document verification office and they decide who can and can't study at the university."

Daneshjou was finishing his second term in criminology at the Islamic Azad University of Tehran as a graduate student when he received the news in a phone call from the university's administrative office on May 20, 2017.

"They told me that according to an order from the university's central security office, I have been banned from continuing my education, but they did not say why they reached that decision," Daneshjou told CHRI.

"The next day I filed a complaint and demanded a written explanation," he added. "I will wait and see. If I don't hear back from them, I will take my case to the appropriate judicial authorities."

Daneshjou started working as a lawyer in 2003, but was banned from practicing law in 2007 because of his peaceful advocacy in defense of the rights of Gonabadi Dervishes, which follow a different interpretation of Islam than Iran's ruling Shia establishment.

Iran's security establishment views other Muslim sects, religions and any other alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order.

In September 2012, Daneshjou and six other Gonabadi lawyers—Hamidreza Moradi, Amir Eslami, Reza Entesari, Afshin Karampour, Farshid Yadollahi and Omid Behrouzi—were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to seven years each for the charges of "spreading falsehoods," "propaganda against the state" and "assembly and collusion against national security" for their alleged administration of the Majzooban-e Noor website, which provided news about the Dervishes.

The prisoners were all granted early conditional release in 2015.