TEHRAN: An Iranian official said 10 associates of hanged Sunni rebel Abdolmalek Rigi were put on trial on Tuesday for illegally entering the country to carry out "acts of sabotage," ISNA news agency said.
The trial of the members of the shadowy Sunni Jundallah (Soldiers of God) began just two days after the hanging of their leader Rigi.
"The public hearing of 10 associates of Abdolmalek Rigi, the ringleader of the terrorist Jundallah group, began a few minutes ago at a court in Sistan-Baluchestan (province)," ISNA quoted provincial judiciary head Ebrahim Hamidi as saying.
Hamidi said they were being tried for "Moharebe" (waging war against God) – a crime punishable by death in the Islamic republic.
He said the rebels were captured by Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards after they "illegally entered the country following Rigi’s arrest for carrying out acts of sabotage."
Jundallah, which is waging a deadly insurgency in the southeastern province for nearly a decade against Tehran’s Shiite rule, has threatened retaliation for the execution of Rigi, US-based monitors said on Monday.
"History will prove that many Abdolmaleks will emerge and that victory and glory are theirs, and that the oppressive regime in Iran will be defeated and the movement will celebrate that great day," the group said on its website in a statement translated by SITE Intelligence Group based near Washington.
The group also contested official media reports that its leader had been executed, insisting that Rigi had in fact "died under the pressure of torture and punishment," and that Iran only said it had executed him in order to avoid a scandal.
The group claims it is fighting to secure rights for Sunni Baluchis who form a significant population in Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Jundallah has carried out series of brutal attacks on Iranian security forces, including the Revolutionary Guards.
The latest attack claimed by the group was a suicide bombing last October that killed at least 42 people, including seven Revolutionary Guards commanders in the town of Pisheen in Sistan-Baluchestan.
Rigi himself was captured in a dramatic operation in February while on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan, when Iranian warplanes forced the plane he was traveling on to land in Iran.
His hanging came less than a month after his brother Abdolhamid was executed on charges of "terrorism."
Soon after his arrest, Jundallah claimed it had appointed Muhammad Dhahir Baluch as its new leader, according to SITE.