On 1 August 2015 Mohammad Ali Taheri was sentenced to death in Iran for ‘spreading corruption on earth”
His family in Canada live in shock and fear that the life of their son and brother could be brutally taken from them for nothing more than the peaceful expression of his beliefs. The Taheri family in Canada have been cautious about making public statements. For years they have lived in the hope that Mohammad Ali Taheri would be set free from his nightmare of imprisonment, solitary confinement and interrogation. They don’t want to do anything to jeopardize his safety and well-being. Now a death sentence is threatening to take away their loved family member and they are beginning to speak publicly.
Mohammad Ali Taheri is not known to many Canadians, but he is known to thousands of people around the world who follow his spiritual teachings which promote the healing of psychological and medical conditions through alternative medicine. In 2006 he opened a cultural and educational institute, called Erfan-e Halgheh, in Tehran to develop and disseminate his spiritual beliefs. The offices of the institute were shut down in August 2010. In October 2011 he was convicted of several offences, including “insulting Islamic sanctities”, and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, 74 lashes and a fine of nine billion rials (US$300,000). He has been serving this prison sentence in solitary confinement in Section 2A of Tehran’s Evin Prison, which is run by the Revolutionary Guards. Amnesty International understands that Mohammad Ali Taheri’s death sentence for the charge of “spreading corruption on earth” is based on the same spiritual teachings and practices which were relied upon in the October 2011 convictions.
Mohammad Ali Taheri has undertaken 12 hunger strikes and attempted suicide four times in protest of his prolonged solitary confinement, lack of access to his family and lawyer and repeated threats to kill him and his wife and children. After Mohammad Ali Taheri’s 12th hunger strike, in December 2014, the authorities granted him access to a lawyer of his own choosing. He has since been allowed access to his lawyer and permitted weekly meetings with his wife. His situation however has become even more urgent. By the beginning of October he was 50 days into his 13th hunger strike.
Executions are rife in Iran. The Iranian authorities are believed to have executed 694 people in the first six months of 2015. This is equivalent to executing more than three people per day.
While Amnesty International opposes the use of the death penalty unconditionally and in all cases, death sentences in Iran are particularly disturbing because they are invariably imposed by courts that are completely lacking in independence and impartiality. They are imposed either for vaguely worded or overly broad offences, or acts that should not be criminalized at all, let alone attract the death penalty. Trials in Iran are deeply flawed, detainees are often denied access to lawyers in the investigative stage, and there are inadequate procedures for appeal, pardon and commutation.
In September, in Toronto, Amnesty International, stood with members of Mohammad Ali Taheri’s family and followers and protested the death sentence of Mohammad Ali Taheri.
We continue to call on the Iranian authorities to immediately quash his death sentence and release him immediately and unconditionally. He is a prisoner of conscience, who has been held solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of belief, expression and association. His family in Canada long for the day that he will be set free to join his wife and children, and to live in peace without fear of harm.
Update: Mohammad Taheri’s death sentence was quashed in December 2015, but he remains in prison in poor health.