Mohammad Ali Taheri, founder of an Iranian spiritual doctrine, on hunger strike after being sentenced to death
Taheri has started a hunger strike since August 13th, 2015 for the following reasons:
• The lack of a fair trial
• The strong influence and power of political and security individuals on the court that attempt to deride its legal and judiciary system
• Blatant disregard for all Taheri’s defenses and admissible evidence presented to court
• Not being able to receive even a copy of the death sentence
• Continued imprisonment in solitary confinement (since April 2011) which opposes all Iranian state laws and regulations, and all the international human right treaties signed by Iran.
Mohammad Ali Taheri has announced that he will continue to resort to his hunger strike until a fair hearing before an independent and impartial court.
Taheri founded his cultural institution called Halqeh (Interuniversal) Mysticism (Erfan-e-Halqeh) in the summer of 2006, when he officially began offering courses on complementary medicine and self-realization under state accreditation. Since then, he has received many awards at international scientific exhibitions and from academic centers throughout the world for his research and new theories on medical fields.
In December 2011, Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Taheri to five years of imprisonment, 74 lashes, and a fine of 910, 500,000 toumans (approximately $671,000 per the exchange rate at the time). These sentences were based on false charges of insulting religious sanctities, obtaining illegitimate income, engaging in religiously prohibited acts (referring to touching a women’s wrist during a healing session inside a class and in front of 150 students), the dissemination of his audiovisual material and books, and the illegal interference in medicine. The last of these charges stems from alternative medicine practices promoted by Taheri’s spiritual movement. The prosecutions of Taheri and some of his followers conform to a well-established pattern of abuse against spiritual movements that the IRI deems undesirable.
The latest development in Mr. Taheri’s case is the death sentence for corruption on earth which was issued after three senior clerics (Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, Ayatollah Saafy Golpayeghani and Ayattollah Alavai Gorhani) issued fatwas referring to Taheri as an apostate based on incorrect and false information. One of the three Ayatollahs (Mr. Alavai Ghorgani) recently denounced his former death Fatwa.
Many international authorities and organizations have condemned this death sentence including Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran:
“It is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law for an individual to be imprisoned and condemned to death for peacefully exercising his rights to freedoms of religion and of expression. Mr. Taheri has been handed a death sentence for his spiritual beliefs and teachings.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that the UN opposes the use of death penalty in all circumstances, and recalled that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “The Covenant protects freedom of religion or belief and provides that countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only impose it for the most serious crimes, that is, those involving intentional killing, and only after a fair trial, among other safeguards,” he explained. “Mr. Taheri’s actions were peaceful and constitute protected activities under international human rights law,” the human rights expert said. “The rights protected by international law encompass the right to have and express any belief that one chooses, regardless of whether that expression is through private actions or public teachings,” he stated. “Condemning a person to death for expressing their beliefs is unacceptable.”
The Canadian Association for Rights and Truth called this death sentence “an institutionalized hate for science, knowledge, and freedom in Iran”:
“The Canadian Association for Rights and Truth expresses the profound indignation of its members against the death verdict handed down to Mohammad Ali Taheri, because the death penalty not only represents an abomination in itself, as well as a perversion of the justice system, but also, in view of this particular verdict, an institutionalized hate for science, knowledge, and freedom in Iran. We, at the Canadian Association for Rights and Truth, urge the Iranian authorities to put an end to the suffering of innocent citizens in Iran, to release all prisoners of conscience in that country, and to act in accordance with international standards on human rights issues.”
US Department of State also published a press statement calling the death sentence “an extreme violation of Taheri’s rights”:
“It is our understanding that Taheri, who has been held in Evin Prison in solitary confinement since his October 2011 conviction on charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities,” received this sentence in response to his peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression. To sentence a citizen to death for exercising these freedoms represents an extreme violation of his rights. We call on the Iranian Government to rescind Taheri’s death sentence and accord him full due process and to uphold freedom of expression and belief for its citizens.”
Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said:
“I call on the Iranian authorities to immediately withdraw the charges against Taheri and ensure his unconditional release. For an individual to be sentenced to death for peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, religion or belief is an absolute outrage – and a clear violation of international human rights law.”
Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC, a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords and co-chair of the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom called this death verdict “a political tool designed to create an atmosphere of fear”:
“The International Community must strongly condemn the Iranian authorities’ use of capital punishment as a political tool, designed to create an atmosphere of fear. UK can play a vital role in this regard and HM Government should join the international community in condemning and demanding a halt to the planned executions of Salar Shadizadi and Mohammad Ali Taheri. Furthermore, the government should make any future economic relations between UK and Iran conditional on substantive and tangible improvements in the human rights situation in that country.”
Other authorities condemning Taheri’s death sentence include: Andrew Saxton (member of parliament of Canada, North Vancouver, CPC); Amnesty International; Helmut Gabel (human rights activist in Germany); Canadian Association for Human Rights; Sam Dastyari (Australian senator, representative of New South Wales); Nasrin Sotoudeh (Iranian human right activist and lawyer); Canadian center for victims of torture, RFE/RL;
Recently many protests have been carried out in and outside of Iran demanding the revoke of this death sentence and the unconditional release of Mohammad Ali Taheri.