Judge Demands Political Prisoner Mohammad Ali Taheri Pick Lawyer from Judiciary’s List
Judge Salavati Often Assigned to Issue Harsh Sentences in Political Cases
The judge who will re-sentence imprisoned spiritual thinker Mohammad Ali Taheri for the charge of “corruption on earth” has demanded that Taheri use an attorney approved by the judiciary.
“Unfortunately, the case has been referred to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge [Abolqasem] Salavati, who has asked my client to drop his lawyers and pick another from a list approved by the judiciary,” Taheri’s attorney, Mohammad Alizadeh Tabatabaee, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on December 13, 2017.
He added: “Mr. Taheri asked the judge whether lawyers are supposed to defend their client or the judiciary. If they are supposed to defend their client, the client ought to pick them himself. The judge and Mr. Taheri got into an argument and Mr. Salavati said he won’t recognize me as the lawyer.”
“We are waiting to see how Mr. Salavati will deal with this case,” said Tabatabaee. “So far his reactions have been against the law.”
Judge Salavati is notorious in Iran for issuing harsh sentences in so-called “security” cases. In addition to violating international due process standards, he is also violating Iran’s Constitution by denying Taheri his right to an attorney. According to to Article 35: “Both parties to a lawsuit have the right in all courts of law to select an attorney, and if they are unable to do so, arrangements must be made to provide them with legal counsel.”
“I have objected to judicial procedures since 2009,” said Tabatabaee, referring to the state’s prosecution of hundreds of people who were arrested for peacefully protesting against that year’s presidential election results. “The judiciary has more than 10,000 judges, why is it undermining its own credibility by assigning security cases to just two or three branches of the Revolutionary Court?”
“We have truly independent and intelligent judges but instead these cases are wrongly given to just a handful of judges,” added Tabatabaee.
On October 29, 2017, the Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s death penalty sentence against Taheri for the second time in two years. The previous death penalty sentence was overturned in December 2015.
Taheri, who has 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 along with 74 lashes, and fined nine billion rials (approximately $300,000). Four years later, he was re-questioned about his books and sentenced to death for spreading “corruption on earth.”
In May 2016 he completed a five-year sentence for the charges of “insulting the sacred,” “immoral contact with women,” and “carrying out illegal medical procedures.” However, he was kept behind bars to again face the charge of “corruption on earth” for his allegedly “anti-Islamic” books on spirituality.
“Mr. Taheri is in solitary confinement in Ward 2A under the control of the Revolutionary Guards even though by law he should be in a [public] ward with other prisoners,” Tabatabaee told CHRI.
“Nevertheless, he is feeling very good mentally and physically, so much so that he has angered some authorities who can’t believe he’s so happy despite almost seven years of solitary confinement,” he added.
“He has had phone contact with his family but Judge Salavati has banned meetings with his attorneys, which is also a violation of the law.”
Iran’s security establishment has cracked down on Taheri and supporters of his Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, viewing it and any other organized alternative beliefs as a threat to the prevailing Shia religious establishment.
During a speech on December 28, 2016, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei described the emergence of spiritual groups in Iran as a Western plot to undermine Islam.
“The enemies are plotting to weaken our young people’s faith in Islam and Islamic principles by encouraging promiscuity and promoting false spirituality, Bahaism, and home churches,” he said.
In March 2017, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) aired a documentary titled “The Devil’s Circle,” which included alleged “confessions” from Taheri and several of his followers about the group’s ideology and activities. In the heavily edited interviews, Taheri’s “students” claimed he taught anti-Islamic ideas.