Location of Imprisoned Spiritual Leader Unknown a Month After He Allegedly Fell Into a Coma
The family of imprisoned spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri has not been informed of his location since October 18, 2016, when he was allegedly hospitalized after falling into a coma due to a three-week hunger strike.
“We don’t know if my brother is alive or dead,” Taheri’s sister, Azardokht Taheri, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on November 16. “We don’t know if he’s in Evin Prison or if he has been moved somewhere else. No one gives an answer and we’re very worried. If something happens to him, we will hold the judicial officials responsible.”
“My brother’s family has been going to Evin Prison (in Tehran) every week to visit him, but they are being told by prison authorities that he has no visitation rights and they won’t explain what’s going on,” she added. “They won’t say he can’t have visits because he’s not being held in Evin or what. The family has followed up with the offices of the prosecutor, the judge and Evin Prison, but they haven’t been able to gather any information. His lawyer says he has no news either.”
Mohammad Ali Taheri, the founder of the banned Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, went on hunger strike on September 19 to protest his continued imprisonment despite completing his five-year prison sentence in February 2016. His lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee, was informed that Taheri fell into a coma on October 18 and was transferred to Baghiatollah Hospital, but when family members tried to visit him, they were told he was not there.
In a post published on his Facebook page on October 19, Tabatabaee said he had no “reliable information” about his client’s condition and said there was no legal justification for Taheri’s continued incarceration.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, who also taught at Tehran University, was practicing a form of alternative medicine based on spirituality when he was arrested on May 4, 2010 and charged with “insulting the sacred,” “immoral contact with women,” and “carrying out illegal medical procedures.” He was sentenced to five years in prison, 74 lashes, and fined nine billion rials (approximately $300,000). Four years later he was re-interrogated about his books and sentenced to death for spreading “corruption on earth.”
Iran’s security establishment has come down hard on Taheri and supporters of Erfan-e Halgheh, viewing it and any other alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order.