After almost eight years of legal battle, the outspoken faith healer Mohammad Ali Taheri has been sentenced to five years.
Taheri, charged with “corruption on Earth”, was twice condemned to death by primary Revolutionary Courts.
One of Taheri’s attorneys, Ahmad Khosravi told Radio Farda’s Mahtab Vahidi Rad, today, “The death verdict against my client has been replaced by a five-year prison term. The new verdict was delivered to Mr. Taheri on Saturday, March 3.
The Islamic Republic’s Supreme Court had already rejected the death sentence against the faith healer, calling it “incompatible with the country’s current penal code”.
Taheri was initially arrested in 2010 but later released after spending 67 days in solitary confinement. He was rearrested in 2011, reportedly held in solitary confinement, and convicted on several charges, including acting against Iran's national security, blasphemy, and touching the wrists of female patients, which is said to be forbidden in Islam.
Taheri, 61, established an organization called Erfan-e Halqeh, or Circle of Mysticism, in 2001, where he used to practice Iranian supplementary medicine, faith healing, and scientology.
The outspoken “faith healer” was initially allowed to freely preach and teach in public. His classes and healing sessions were attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life, including government officials and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ top commanders. Several of his books were also published with permission from the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry.
The Islamic Republic’s 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 had already 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.
Condemning Taheri to death triggered a widespread negative response all over the world.
The U.S. State Department on September 1, 2017 announced that the charges of founding a religious cult and “corruption on earth” violate Tehran’s obligations to respect and ensure freedom of expression and religion.
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. But now the death sentence has been reduced to a five-year term, if the case takes no other twists and turns.