The Iranian government’s brutal intolerance of religious freedom continues.
On August 27, a revolutionary court in Tehran sentenced Mohammad Ali Taheri, the founder of an Iranian spiritual movement, to death. He was charged with founding a religious cult and “spreading corruption on earth.”
Mr. Taheri, who researched and taught alternative medicine at the university level, started an organization, known as Erfan-e Halgheh, or Circle of Mysticism, in the 2000s. As the movement grew, it attracted the attention of the authorities who considered it subversive to the established Shiite orthodoxy. Mr. Taheri was arrested in 2010 and served five years in prison for such crimes as “insulting the sacred” and “carrying out illegal medical procedures.” After his sentence was complete, instead of being released, he was sentenced to death for the first time for spreading corruption on earth. On appeal, that sentence was overturned. But he has remained in prison since 2011.
Mr. Taheri’s family reports that he has been harassed in prison and pressured into giving a forced video confession.
U.S. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement that the U.S. is “deeply concerned” by reports that an Iranian court has sentenced Mohammad Ali Taheri to death. “The charges of founding a religious cult and ‘spreading corruption on earth’ are inconsistent with Iran’s international obligations to respect and ensure his freedoms of expression and religion or belief and to reserve the death penalty ‘only for the most serious crimes,’” she said.
Ms. Nauert noted that a number of Mr. Taheri’s followers have reportedly also been arrested recently “on similar objectionable charges.”
The United States, Ms. Nauert said, calls on the Iranian government “to take whatever steps necessary to reverse [Mohammad Ali] Taheri’s conviction and death sentence. We join our voice with those who call on Iran to uphold its obligations under Iranian and international law and to ensure that the human rights of all individuals in Iran are respected and guaranteed.”