Three thousand followers of a popular spiritual leader in Iran, Mohammad Ali Taheri have called for the release of their mentor and master.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, 61, established an organization under the name of Erfan-e Halqeh, or “Circle of Mysticism” in 2001, where he used to practice “Iranian supplementary medicine, faith healing and scientology”.
He was initially allowed to preach, practice and teach in public, and his classes and healing sessions were attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life, including the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commanders, IRGC and government officials. Several of his books were published with permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Then, the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in, warning against what he branded as “false mysticism that might lure people away from Islam”.
Immediately after Khamenei’s comments, Taheri was arrested in 2011. He was tried in a Revolutionary Court and condemned to death. In 2016, the supreme court rejected the verdict and returned Taheri’s case for “further investigation” to the Revolutionary Court.
Nevertheless, it is not yet clear what the final verdict will be.
Meanwhile, local and international human rights organizations and activists have been calling for Taheri’s immediate release.
In a recent campaign for releasing Taheri, three thousand followers of the mystical preacher have protested against what they have called “outside pressures” on judges to prevent them issuing the spiritual leader’s release order.
According to a news website promoting Taheri’s school of thought, Irfan-I Halqeh News, the signatories of the letter have maintained, “The IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters and security forces have pressurized the judge to prevent him from ordering Taheri’s release”.
The letter has been published at a time that latest reports are indicating to the fact that twelve members of Circle of Mysticism have recently been detained in city of Isfahan, 340 kilometers (211 miles) south of the capital, Tehran.
Earlier, in an official statement dated July 24, the IRGC’s intelligence department reported that it has arrested eight members of the “Deviant Circle of Mysticism” in Shahin Shahr, 24 km (15 miles) to the north of Isfahan.
Taheri's plight was recently highlighted by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. The U.S. State Department has expressed concern over Taheri's death sentence. And rights watchers have noted a crackdown against not only Taheri, but his team of educators.
"Some reports suggest that at least 30 of Taheri's educators have been arrested and sentenced to prison in the past several years," Amnesty International researcher Raha Bahreini says.