The Middle East Forum for Development commemorated the 6th anniversary of Iranian spiritual teacher Mohammad Ali Taheri’s imprisonment. The event was held at the premises of Amnesty International UK in London last Sunday.
The event was chaired by Ms Shimaa Elsayed, Amnesty International UK trainer and the founder of Women Against Violent Extremism (WAVE). Speakers included Mr Hamilton Hay, from Amnesty International UK, Mosa Zahed, executive director of Middle East Forum for Development and Ms Sara Saei, a student of Mohammad Ali Taheri and who was arrested in Iran during a peaceful demonstration in protest to Mr Taheri’s death sentence. Ms Saei also volunteers with Amnesty International UK.
The panelists expressed grave concerns regarding Mr Taheri’s case and argued how Iran’s deeply flawed judicial system is the reason why to this day he remains in solitary confinement. Mr Hamilton Hay underscored that in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the burden of proof does not lay with the accuser and that the authorities systematically subject prisoners of conscience to torture in order to obtain forced confessions and to subsequently sentence them. He specified that the authorities “fabricate and add charges during imprisonment as has been the case with Mohammad Ali Taheri” and further added that the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the revolutionary courts play an instrumental role in overruling Supreme Court rulings. Mr Hay stipulated that “we must persist with our human rights campaigns and efforts in order to show Mohammad Ali Taheri and other prisoners of conscience in Iran that they are not alone and that we will do whatever we can through peaceful means in order to secure their release.” Mr Hay argued that “As long as the Iranian authorities fear their population, there will always be someone who stands up against their repressive policies, despite the ongoing persecution. Mr Hay finished his speech by stating that “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Mosa Zahed argued that during Mr Taheri’s latest trial, “the Iranian authorities astonishingly once again charged Mr Taheri for ‘spreading corruption on earth’ using the same evidence that was used against him during his previous trial that sentenced him to five years imprisonment on charges of ‘insulting Islamic sanctities’, which he has already fully served.” Zahed further expressed his serious concerns regarding a documentary which was recently produced by the Iranian authorities and which “aims to demonise Mr Taheri and was broadcast on national television for one week prior to his trial in March.” Zahed added that “By doing this, the Iranian authorities breached Article 39 of their own constitution…” and that “these developments indicate that the Iranian authorities are setting the stage for Mr Taheri’s execution and are poised to issue the death penalty.” Zahed further underscored that “In an era during which western nations are increasingly looking at Iran as a potential source of lucrative trade deals, it is crucial that the human rights situation of the country is not forgotten.” He asked the British government “to undertake the required measures by calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr Taheri from Evin prison” and that the “intensification of relations between the United Kingdom and the Islamic Republic of Iran to be contingent upon the improvement of the human rights situation in the country.”
Ms Sara Saei provided an extensive background to the doctrine of Mohammad Ali Taheri and a timeline of her peaceful activities in Iran aimed at securing his release. She shared her experience in detention as a result of her campaigns for Mr Taheri, where she was initially in Evin prison before being transferred to Gharchak prison in Tehran province. Saei argued that “the repressive authorities of Iran fear Mr Taheri’s popularity, as his followers rapidly grew over time during his imprisonment, and have therefore decided to persecute him.” She elaborated on how the authorities are poised to obtain forced confessions from Mr Taheri and how they are bringing forward old charges against him that he was acquitted of. “I am extremely concerned about my teacher’s situation and considering this documentary, that was broadcast on cable television and utilises scenes from horror movies, and Mr Taheri being again charged with ‘spreading corruption on earth,’ it appears to me that the Iranian authorities are preparing the population for his execution” Saei added.
The press release can be found on the Amnesty International UK website.