Iran must disclose fate and whereabouts of spiritual teacher


mohammad-ali-taheriLondon, MEFD – Middle East Forum for Development is extremely concerned about the fate and whereabouts of Iranian spiritual teacher Mohammad Ali Taheri, who has been held incommunicado since 16 October. Since May 2011, Taheri has been held in solitary confinement in the notorious Evin prison in Iran after he was sentenced by the authorities to five years imprisonment on trumped up charges of “insulting Islamic sanctities”. Taking into account the time Taheri spent in pre-trial detention in 2010, his prison sentence was considered to be complete in February 2016. In August 2015, the Revolutionary Court in Tehran charged him with “spreading corruption on earth” for his spiritual teachings and practices and subsequently sentenced Taheri to death. Following the verdict, Taheri commenced a 70-day hunger strike and as a result of the efforts by international human rights organisations, his case garnered global attention. Taheri’s death sentence was effectively quashed in December 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled that his activities prior to his arrest in 2011 did not amount to “spreading corruption on earth.” The court further noted that numerous open but inactive investigations to allegations against Taheri, including “apostasy”, “insulting the Prophet”, “gathering and colluding against national security” and “committing crimes against the physical integrity of multiple individuals and on a mass scale” were incomplete and flawed. In June 2016, Mohammad Ali Taheri was acquitted of the charge of “spreading corruption on earth” and the other charges against him were dropped altogether, but he remained in solitary confinement. Taheri thus started another hunger strike on 28 September 2016, his 16th hunger strike throughout his imprisonment, in order to protest Iran’s deeply flawed justice system. Since 16 October 2016, Mohammad Ali Taheri’s family has not heard from him and they are enormously distressed considering the fact that Taheri’s health deteriorated after he commenced his hunger strike in September. Taheri’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, has informed his family that he went into coma on 18 October 2016 and was subsequently hospitalised at Baghiatallah hospital, an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) affiliated healthcare institution. Taheri’s family further disclosed that Mr Taheri’s main interrogator and a masked man took him on the fifth day of his hunger strike to an interrogation room where he was put under pressure to give video-recorded “confessions” and added that Taheri resisted and was beaten as a result. The Iranian authorities have not allowed Taheri’s family to enter the IRGC affiliated hospital in order to inquire about Taheri’s fate, nor have they confirmed any news regarding his whereabouts. “Mohammad Ali Taheri’s case is another clear example of the Iranian authorities’ utter disregard for core international human rights treaties to which the Islamic Republic is a state party and it evidently and urgently demands from the international community to make any improvement of ties with Tehran contingent upon the improvement of human rights in the country” said Mosa Zahed, executive director at Middle East Forum for Development. Middle East Forum for Development calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately disclose Mohammad Ali Taheri’s fate and whereabouts and urges them to release him immediately and unconditionally.  

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