Prominent Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi joined international human rights organizations calling for the immediate release of spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri, who has been behind bars for nearly six years in Iran.
“Mohammad Ali Taheri, deprived of a fair and just trial, has tolerated many years of hardship in prison,” said Shirin Ebadi in an audio message sent to the campaign, adding that Taheri is innocent and should be freed.
“This innocent man deserves to be freed as soon as possible. The real reason behind his incarceration is the fact that the [Islamic Republic] regime is fearful of his influence on his followers and other people,” added Ebadi.
Another outspoken Iranian lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has also called for Taheri’s release. “Although Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. Yet Mohammad Ali Taheri has been imprisoned for more than six years just because he has a different opinion.”
Referring to the years Taheri spent on death row, Sotoudeh reiterates that – while she is not judging Taheri’s opinion as right or wrong – Taheri deserves to be freed.
“It is the law’s responsibility to stop those officials who arbitrarily interfere in legal cases because they have a different opinion. Free Taheri, free him right away!” concludes Sotoudeh.
This innocent man deserves to be freed as soon as possible. The real reason behind his incarceration is the fact that the [Islamic Republic] regime is fearful of his influence.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, 61 is often referred to as a spiritual leader, founder of the Irfan-i Halqeh or "Circle of Mysticism" school of thought. Thousands of Iranians reportedly follow Taheri’s school.
“Spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri attracted a significant following in Iran by spreading the word of mystical love and the idea that he could help cure the sick by connecting them to divine powers,” reported RFE/RL’s Golnaz Esfandiari.
“Taheri founded the Circle of Mysticism, a group that promotes a mystical understanding of the universe and faith healing, nearly a decade ago, and was initially tolerated by the regime.” writes Ms. Esfandiari.
Mohammad Ali Taheri was initially allowed to preach and teach in public, and his classes and healing sessions were attended by people from all walks of life, including government officials. Several of his books were published with permission from the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
Then, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stepped in, warning against what he called “false mysticism that might lure people away from Islam.”
Taheri was 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 unrelated female patients - that is forbidden in Islam.
Meanwhile, Khamenei’s allies labelled the Circle of Mysticism as a “deviant sect” while claiming that Taheri had amassed an “illicit” fortune through his teachings.
Taheri and his followers have repeatedly dismissed these allegations as false and baseless.
They insist that his teaching is not against any religion, let alone Islam. According to Taheri’s school of thought: “Men and women are not only a pile of flesh and bones but [they are] as vast and limitless as the universe. In addition to physical components, which is considered as the hardware part of being human, they have countless software programs which can run this physicality.”