Imprisoned Spiritual Leader on Hunger Strike Has Become “Like a Skeleton”
The family of Mohammad Ali Taheri, the imprisoned leader of a peaceful spiritual group, is alarmed by his deteriorating health after his two month-long hunger strike. He began the hunger strike on August 13, 2015 to protest his unjust prosecution, imprisonment, and solitary confinement since 2011.
“After Mohammad’s 58th day on hunger strike, his relatives visited him on October 7, 2015, in Evin Prison. They said he has become extremely thin and did not look well at all. They said he has become like a skeleton. We are extremely worried for him. The family has asked Mohammad to break his hunger strike. But he has said he will not until his demands are looked into,” Taheri’s sister, Azardokht, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, a 60-year-old scholar and founder of the “Erfan-e Halgheh” (Spiritual Circle) arts and culture institute, was arrested in 2010 and has been in solitary confinement since May 4, 2011, at Ward 2-A of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Evin Prison. He has been sentenced to death for “apostasy” and “corruption on earth” because of his religious teachings and books, even though they were published with permission from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture.
Taheri’s sister told the Campaign he has not been allowed to see his lawyer and his 250-page written defense against the “apostasy” and “corruption on earth” charges against him had disappeared from his case file.
Previously he was sentenced to five years in prison for “blasphemy,” 74 lashes for “touching the wrists of female patients,” and 900 million toman in fines (approximately $300,000) for “interfering in medical science,” “earning illegitimate funds,” and “distribution of audio-visual products and use of academic titles.”
Azardokht Taheri, who lives in Canada with her mother, added: “I have reached the point that I would set myself on fire if I knew it would attract attention to my brother and someone would do something for him. No one is responding to our family’s queries. Nobody has answers. My mother and I and the whole family want the judicial authorities to allow for a fair investigation of his case so that he can be released. It has been enough pain for someone who has not committed any crime.”
“We are amazed how the Judiciary is so careless about the fate of a prisoner. I think they want to ignore his hunger strike and let him die in silence,” Azardokht Taheri said.
The authorities view any individual who promotes alternative spiritual beliefs in Iran as a national security threat. As such, the authorities also severely persecute Baha’is, Gonabadi Dervishes, and evangelical Christians.