Student of Imprisoned Iranian Spiritual Leader Facing Trial for Supporting Him
The student of a spiritual leader in Iran who has been imprisoned for his alternative beliefs, has been summoned to court for attending a gathering in support of his freedom.
The trial of Sara Saei, a student of Mohammad Ali Taheri, will begin on February 9, 2016 at Branch 1060 of the Tehran Criminal Court, a source close to the case told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“Sara, along with four of Mr. Taheri’s other students, were held in solitary confinement in Ward 2-A of Evin Prison [the ward controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization] for four nights and charged with ‘disturbing public order’ and ‘participating in illegal gatherings’ in support of Mohammad Ali Taheri,” said the source.
“They were then taken to Gharchak Prison in Varamin, where murderers and thieves are held,” the source told the Campaign. “During interrogations [Saei] was asked why she took part in protests, who was leading her on, and why she was confronting the state.”
“They also asked about the Erfan-e Halgheh [Taheri’s banned arts and culture institute],” said the source.
Taheri, who founded the now banned Erfan-e Halgheh (“Spiritual Circle”) cultural institute in 2001, practiced alternative medicine and taught at Tehran University. He also published several spiritual books with official permission.
The security establishment has come down hard on Taheri and the Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, viewing it and any other alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order.
Taheri was sentenced in 2011 to five years in prison for “blasphemy,” 74 lashes for “touching the wrists of female patients,” and nine billion rials (approximately $300,000 USD) in fines for “interfering in medical science,” “earning illegitimate funds,” and “distribution of audio-visual products and use of academic titles.”
He was later given a death sentence for “corruption on earth,” but it was rescinded by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court. The case has been sent back to Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court for re-sentencing, according to Taheri’s lawyer, Saeid Khalili.
In addition to being beaten and harassed at rallies, several of Taheri’s followers have been arrested and imprisoned.
An Erfan-e Halgheh’s instructor, Ziba Habibpour, surrendered herself to prison authorities to begin a three-year prison sentence on July 1, 2015—the same month that Masoumeh Zia, another member of the group, was sentenced to a year in prison and 74 lashes.