Source: The Telegraph
Mohammad Ali Taheri, an Iranian faith healer, reportedly died in prison and was then sentenced to death to cover it up
By Ahmad Vahdat, and Colin Freeman8:30PM BST 09 Aug 2015
Supporters of an Iranian faith healer who was jailed for blasphemy and “touching the wrists of female patients” have accused the country’s government of posthumously sentencing him to death to cover up his death from torture and hunger strike.
Mohammad Ali Taheri, a pioneer of “holistic” complementary medicine, initially received a five-year jail sentence. His case was among those raised last week by Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, after it was announced last weekend that he had later been sentenced to death by Iran’s “revolutionary court” on fresh charges of spreading “corruption on earth”.
US-based followers of his Circle of Unity organisation now claim to have learned from sources within Iran’s prison system that he actually starved himself to death as long as ago as January, but that the Iranian authorities then covered it up. The Iranian government insists he is still alive.
“I can confirm that Dr Mohammad Ali Taheri, the leader of our spiritual group has died while under torture and on hunger strike against his death penalty,” said Shahnaz Niroomanesh, the California-based director of Interuniversalist organisation, who said she had learned of his death from sources that earlier smuggled a jailcell letter from Mr Taheri to the UN. “The authorities have refrained from announcing the news to avoid a reaction from his supporters, the public and human rights organisations. Instead, they sentenced him to death in order to justify his announced death.”
Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein Photo: AFP
Mr Taheri first established his “Circle of Unity” organisation as an arts and culture institute in Tehran more than a decade ago. It uses healing concepts and psycho-analysis based on a theory of “Inter-universalism”.
While his teachings might be regarded as eccentric even in the West, human rights group say the case against him shows that Iranian government is suspicious of anyone who gains a spiritual “following” other than its own Shia mullahs.
In May, after having been in Tehran’s Evin prison for three-and-a-half years, Mr Taheri was put on trial again for “corruption on earth,” a charge that carries the death penalty and for which he was earlier acquitted.
According to supporters of the group, Iran’s judiciary has been under pressure from several ultra-conservative ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guard’s ideological branch to take a firm line against him and his group. Mr Taheri denies the charges against him.
The claims that Mr Taheri has died were denied by his court-appointed lawyer, Alizadeh Tabatabaee, who described them as a “sheer lie”. In a statement to the Daily Telegraph, his office said: “Some while ago he [Tabatabaee] met with him [Taheri] in the Court of Revolution and a video film of this meeting, which was produced without the knowledge of the lawyer and his client by the security forces, is available to view on the internet.”
Mr Taheri’s supporters say has never met with his court-appointed lawyers while in detention, including Mr Tabatabee, and that the video clip is a fake posted by a group connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.