A group of Iranian activists have demanded the judiciary overturn the death sentence and immediately release Mohammad Ali Taheri, the head of a spiritual group called the Circle of Mysticism.
In an open letter, 18 Iranian human rights and political activists described Taheri’s case as one of the most unfair judicial cases and rejected the arguments of the revolutionary court that issued his death sentence.
Taheri was acquitted several times on similar charges but after each acquittal a new case was opened against him in order to “fulfill the will of security agents who were seeking his execution,” the letter reads.
In its latest verdict, Iran’s Supreme Court had acquitted Taheri on charges of “corruption on Earth,” but a similar case was opened again and a lower court had convicted Taheri on the same charges, the activists wrote and asked the Supreme Court to “maintain its integrity” and “prevent more illegal steps in this case.”
Taheri was arrested in 2010 and released later after spending 67 days in solitary confinement. He was again confined in 2011. This August, one of his lawyers announced he had been sentenced to execution. Charges against the spiritual leader include acting against Iran's national security, blasphemy, and touching the wrists of unrelated female patients, which is forbidden in Islam.
Some conservative media have published Fatwas -- religious verdicts -- issued by at least three renowned Shi’ite scholars declaring Taheri an apostate. As prescribed in Islam, Iranian law provides the death penalty for apostasy.
Taheri’s verdict is currently under review by the judges from Branch 33 of Iran’s Supreme Court. The same judges reportedly acquitted Taheri in the past.
Thousands of people have voiced their support for Taheri's release and the U.S. has voiced concern over his conviction.
The activists who signed the open letter in Taheri’s defense also referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Iranian Constitution, saying that based on both documents “Iran is not allowed to punish or threaten its citizens with the death penalty for having particular beliefs.”
Renowned Iranian lawyers Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Seifzadeh and political activists such as Mohammad Nourizad were among the letter’s signatories.