A court in Iran will review the case of the founder of Erfan Halqe, Mohammad Ali Taheri, his lawyer announced on December 12.
Taheri is a spiritual healer and his Erfan Halqe means Circle of Mysticism. He characterizes his school of thought as Inter-universalism.
The review follows the Supreme Court’s rejection of the death sentence issued by a Revolutionary Court, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tababaei disclosed.
Supreme Court judges again rejected a sentence condemning Taheri to death, arguing the verdict issued had been based on faulty investigation, reported state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA).
This marks the second time the Supreme Court has rejected a Revolutionary Court’s death sentence for the mystic leader, citing faulty investigation.
Now, a court of equal rank, Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, has been assigned by the Supreme Court to retry Taheri.
Praising the Supreme Court’s judges as “sagacious,” Taheri’s lawyer said on October 29, “If a court issues an unjust verdict, the Supreme Court weighs the case more thoroughly.”
Taheri, the founder of Irfan-i Halqa, has been behind bars since 2001 and accused of “corruption on Earth.” He was sentenced to death in 2015.
However, three months later, the sentence was overturned by Supreme Court judges who argued that investigations into some of the charges, including insulting the prophet of Islam, apostasy, and collusion against national security, had been faulty.
Taheri was once again condemned to death last August, charged with “corruption on Earth,” a vague term that according to human rights activists is often used by conservative judges in Iranian courts to punish anyone who dares oppose the ruling system.
The United States reacted to reports of the death sentence by saying it was deeply concerned and called on the authorities to reverse the decision.
The U.S. State Department said on September 1 announced that the charges of founding a religious cult and “corruption on Earth” violate Tehran’s obligations to respect and ensure the freedoms of expression and religion or belief.
The statement added that the death penalty should be used only for the most serious of crimes.
“We call on the Iranian government to take whatever steps necessary to reverse Taheri’s conviction and death sentence,” it added.
Amnesty International has also insisted that Taheri is a prisoner of conscience and condemned Iran’s use of capital punishment “for vaguely worded or overly broad offenses, or acts that should not be criminalized at all.”
Tehran dismissed such criticism as part of an effort from the West to heap political pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Taheri calls his school of thought Interuniversalism in English, and was initially allowed to preach and teach in public. His classes and healing sessions were attended by people from all walks of life, including government officials and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ top commanders. Several of his books were published with permission from the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei then stepped in, warning against what he called “false mysticism that might lure people away from Islam.”
Khamenei’s allies have labeled the Circle of Mysticism a “deviant sect” while saying Taheri had amassed an illicit fortune through his teachings.
Taheri and his followers have repeatedly dismissed these allegations as baseless.