Missing Spiritual Leader’s Supporters Beaten by Plainclothes Intelligence Agents at Iran’s Parliament
Approximately 50 followers of imprisoned spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri—who has been missing for more than a month—were beaten by plainclothes members of Iran’s intelligence forces and then arrested by the police in front of Parliament on November 21, 2016, according to eyewitnesses.
Hundreds of Taheri’s followers had gathered in front of the Parliament building in Tehran to deliver letters about his case to lawmakers, but were violently attacked by plainclothes agents, according to an eyewitness who asked not to be identified.
“Around 2 pm I and about 300 other students of Taheri gathered in front of Parliament to protest his unjust incarceration,” a source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “Previously, we had gone to the Supreme Leader’s office, but they took our letter and threw it in the trash bin right in front of our eyes and told us to get lost.”
The eyewitness continued, “Our objective in gathering in front of Parliament was only to deliver letters seeking answers about our teacher’s unjust situation. Each of us had a copy of the same letter in our hand. First we were told to stand in line to hand out the letters one by one, but suddenly plainclothes agents attacked us. They started to beat the men, and when the women came to help, the agents beat them, too.”
“There were policemen there too, but they did not participate in the attack. It was only the plainclothes agents who brutally attacked us and shouted foul language. There were also individuals who were constantly taking pictures of us.”
Mohammad Ranjbar told the Campaign that his wife was among the people who were arrested: “On Wednesday morning, November 23, my wife [Firouzeh Yaghoubi] contacted me from Gharchak Prison in Varamin (city). She said that on November 21 she and about 50 others were [rounded up in front of Parliament] and first taken to Vozara Detention Center in Tehran and then to Evin Prison the next day. Ten of them were freed the same day after signing a commitment not to participate in future rallies, but the rest were transferred to Gharchak and Fashafouyeh Prisons—the women were sent to Gharchak and the men to Fashafouyeh.”
Ranjbar added that he hoped his wife could go free on November 27 because they had posted the bail, which was set at 50 million tomans ($15,600 USD).
For more than a month, the location of Taheri, the leader of the banned Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, has been concealed by the authorities. He fell into a coma after three weeks on hunger strike and was taken from Evin Prison to Baghiatollah Hospital on October 18, 2016, but his family and lawyer have not been able to visit him in the hospital or the prison.
Taheri, who completed his five-year prison sentence for “insulting the sacred,” “immoral contact with women,” and “carrying out illegal medical procedures” in February 2016, had gone on hunger strike on September 19 to protest his continued incarceration.
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.