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Imprisoned Spiritual Leader Facing the Death Penalty Again for His Personal Beliefs

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Imprisoned Spiritual Leader Facing the Death Penalty Again for His Personal BeliefsIranhumanrights.org - Imprisoned spiritual thinker Mohammad Ali Taheri has again been tried for the charge of "corruption on earth" despite being cleared of the same charge in 2015, his sister Azardokht Taheri told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

If convicted, the founder of the banned Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group could be issued the death penalty.

"We are very worried. The authorities have no respect for their own rulings. My brother was acquitted of 'corruption on earth,' but according to his lawyer (Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee), that charge was brought up again in court on February 27 (2017) even though the trial was supposed to be for the charge of 'engaging in medical practices,'" Azardokht Taheri told CHRI on March 2, 2017.

The day after his trial, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) station aired a propaganda video featuring alleged former students of Taheri calling for his execution for his alleged promotion of "anti-Islamic" views.

"This program was shown to deceive the public," said Azardokht Taheri. "Mr. Taheri has many students and they have always said that they got good results from his courses. Why weren't they interviewed?"

"Nowhere (in the video) does Mr. Taheri say he has done anything wrong," she added. "They aired only bits and pieces of his statements. We're worried that it was aired for sinister reasons."

In the heavily edited interviews, Taheri's "students" claim he taught anti-Islamic ideas and encouraged them to distance themselves from God and Islam. One woman said her daughter stopped praying after attending his classes.

The video also included clips from Taheri's lectures, all of which included no statements against Islam.

Some scenes also appeared to be taken from his taped interrogation sessions, in which he refuses to express regret for his personal beliefs.

Mohammad Ali Taheri, 60, was due to be freed in May 2016 after the completion of his five-year prison sentence for "insulting the sacred" and "immoral contact with women."

In February 2015, he was again interrogated about alleged heresy in his books and sentenced to death for spreading "corruption on earth," but the Supreme Court rejected the verdict in December and opened his case for reconsideration.

His latest trial was held at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh.

Iran's security establishment has come down hard on Taheri and supporters of the Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, viewing it and any other alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order.