Narges Mohammadi Calls on MPs to End the “Illegal” Torture of Solitary Confinement in Iran’s Prisons

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Imprisoned prominent human rights activist Narges Mohammadi has called on members of Iran’s Parliament to investigate and end the “illegal” practice of solitary confinement of prisoners.

“As a defender of human rights who has been tortured by this practice, I consider it my duty to take every opportunity to express my protest against solitary confinement, the suffering victims of which I continue to see in Evin Prison,” wrote Narges Mohammadi in a letter from the prison where she is serving a 16-year sentence for peacefully advocating for human rights.

“I am sure you are aware that under the laws and regulations of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and based on the opinion of the Supreme Administrative Court, keeping suspects in solitary confinement is not only illegal, but also a clear violation of the constitutional and basic human rights and dignity of prisoners, instituted by the security and judicial agencies without rules or limits,” she wrote.

Article 39 of Iran’s Constitution forbids “all affronts to the dignity and repute of persons arrested, detained, imprisoned, or banished.”

The letter, published by the Defenders of Human Rights Center on October 8, 2017, addressed members of Parliament’s Article 90 Committee, which is authorized by the Constitution to investigate citizens’ complaints against the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state.

In her letter, Mohammadi—a 45-year-old mother of twins who is currently being held in Evin Prison’s Women’s Ward—mentioned 15 other cellmates who she said have spent a total of 140 months in solitary confinement throughout different periods of their incarceration.

Mohammadi also listed examples of abuse and suffering that she said have occurred while prisoners have been held in solitary confinement:

– Death under interrogation (Zahra Kazemi, Zahra Baniyaghoub, Sattar Beheshti…).

– Sexual and other assaults.

– Diseases and ailments, especially psychological disorders.

– Extraction of false confessions under psychological pressure, which are used to justify heavy prison sentences.

Mohammadi called on the MPs to:

“A) Form a committee to study the legal and security aspects of this phenomenon and the continuation of this illegal and inhuman practice by the judicial and security agencies without any oversight.

“B) Investigate the human aspects of this method of torture and its terrible impact and harm on people. Invite the victims who have experienced solitary confinement, listen to their stories and present a report to the public in an open session of Parliament. Then use all your legal authority to put a stop and end to this inhumane method of torture.”

Winner of the 2011 Per Anger Prize for her defense of human rights in Iran, Mohammadi was first arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center,” and “propaganda against the state.”

Upon appeal, her sentence was reduced to six years behind bars and she was released from Zanjan Prison in 2013 on medical grounds.

Mohammadi was arrested again on May 5, 2015, two months after meeting with Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief at the time, at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran to discuss the situation of human rights in Iran.

In September 2016, Branch 26 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld a 16-year prison sentence for “membership in the [now banned] Defenders of Human Rights Center,” “assembly and collusion against national security,” and one year for “propaganda against the state.”

Mohammadi will be eligible for release after serving 10 years in prison.

After Hassan Rouhani’s second-term victory in Iran’s May 2017 presidential election, Mohammadi called on him to build the foundations for civil society in Iran.

“As a citizen who voted for you, I should and will be insistent on seeking my demands,” she wrote. “I am an imprisoned civil rights activist, but I am not asking you to free me. I want to see [the dream for] a civil society come true. That is my demand.”


Labor Activist Dies From Cancer Left Untreated in Iranian Prison

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Case Highlights Trend of Denial of Medical Care to Political Prisoners

Labor activist Mohammad Jarrahi has died from thyroid cancer that was left untreated while he was held as a political prisoner in Iran’s Tabriz Prison, his former lawyer, Naghi Mahmoudi, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“Judicial officials were negligent in preventing treatment for his thyroid cancer and caused it to get worse,” said Mahmoudi. “The treatment he received after his release was not effective and he died.”

“In 2011, the judiciary disbarred me for defending political activists and I was not able to help Mr. Jarrahi, but I followed his case and I knew about the letters he exchanged with the authorities about his illness,” said Mahmoudi in an interview with CHRI from Germany on October 5.

“Jarrahi and Zamani both had serious medical issues and doctors had repeatedly warned about their conditions,” he added. “Despite this knowledge, the prison officials did not allow them to be transferred to the hospital and refused to grant them medical furlough.”

Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.

Jarrahi, a construction painter who passed away at the age of 61, was arrested in Tabriz, northwestern Iran, in May 2011 along with fellow labor activist Shahrokh Zamani, who died of a heart attack in September 2015 after being denied medical care in Rajaee Shahr Prison. They were sentenced to five years in prison each for distributing labor movement newsletters and campaigning to form independent workers’ organizations.

Independent unions are not allowed to operate in Iran, strikers often lose their jobs and risk arrest, and labor leaders who attempt to organize workers and bargain collectively are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison sentences.

Jarrahi’s Letter to Tabriz Prison Officials

In September 2013, Jarrahi wrote a letter from Tabriz Prison to the head of the Construction Painters’ Union of Iran complaining about the denial of medical treatment for his cancer and other ailments.

“Because of my advanced age, and the bad food and poor medical care in Tabriz Prison, I have been stricken with thyroid cancer, diabetes, and high cholesterol,” said the letter, a copy of which has been obtained by CHRI.

“However, the prison officials have not taken adequate measures for my treatment … and despite the recommendations of specialist physicians that I should receive medical care outside prison, the authorities have not responded to my request for release on medical grounds,” he said.

On October 5, 2017, the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported thyroid cancer as Jarrahi’s cause of death without mentioning that he was denied full medical treatment while he was imprisoned.

Jarrahi was first arrested in Tabriz in 2008 and charged with “propaganda against the state” for handing out labor leaflets. He was sentenced to a year in prison. Upon appeal “we were able to convince the court to suspend the sentence because judicial procedures were not followed correctly in his case,” Mahmoudi told CHRI.

The case of former political prisoner Alireza Rajaee, who lost part of his face due to sinus cancer that he says was left untreated while he was held in Evin Prison, has put the spotlight on the denial of medical care to political prisoners in Iran.

In September 2017, four political prisoners in Rajaee Shahr Prison were denied medical care after they went on a 30-day hunger strike to protest their forced removal to a high-security ward.

Political prisoners in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison, including Maryam Akbari-Monfared, are also repeatedly denied proper care.

“The clinic in Evin Prison does not have specialist doctors or proper facilities to be able to help her,” her husband, Hassan Jafari, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in September 2017.

Political prisoner Omid Kokabee was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer in 2016 after years of repeatedly being denied treatment for his symptoms in Evin Prison.

On July 8, 2017, current political prisoners Atena Daemi and Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee wrote a joint letter about the denial of medical care in Evin Prison after foreign ambassadors were given a staged tour of certain sections of the facility.

“Did they tell you about unsanitary conditions and women’s health? Or about the conditions inside the clinic where they prescribe wrong medications? Or about using sanctions and budget cuts as an excuse for the lack of disinfectants and cleaning material?” wrote the activists.

“Have they told you that for religious reasons, male prison doctors do not check female prisoners or give them injections and blood pressure tests? Have they told you there is not even one female nurse to carry out these tasks? Do you know how many hundreds or thousands of inmates suffer from kidney problems because of the prison’s unhealthy water?” asked the political prisoners.

Imprisoned Iranian-British Citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Threatened With 16 More Years Behind Bars

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Revolutionary Guards Bring New Charges Against Young Mother Who Was Eligible for Release in November 2017

October 9, 2017—Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, imprisoned in Iran since April 2016 on trumped up and unspecified national security charges, is now facing up to 16 more years in prison based on new charges brought by the arresting authority, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), according to her family.

“Threatening Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with more years behind bars after she was imprisoned without full due process is unjust and inhumane,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“The Iranian and British governments must work for her immediate release from the clutches of the IRGC and the judiciary, whose cooperation in politically motivated cases reveals the deep corruption of the judicial system,” he said.

CHRI calls for the immediate release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, currently serving a five-year prison sentence, and all dual nationals imprisoned in Iran without due process.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe, denied a lawyer during the hearing, faced the judge with no attorney present, and was only allowed to speak to her lawyer by telephone immediately before the court session, according to a press release by the Free Nazanin Campaign issued on October 9, 2017. This is her second lawyer, as the first is currently being prosecuted for defending her. No date has been set for the trial.

Her family in Iran paid 30 million tomans (approximately $9,045 USD) bail to prevent Zaghari-Ratcliffe, recently diagnosed with severe depression, from being placed in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. The first 130 days of her imprisonment were spent in solitary confinement between Kamran Prison and later Evin Prison.

“It is not melodramatic to say what is happening to Nazanin is torture,” said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, adding that his wife would be eligible for early release as of November 2017.

“The Iranian government needs to stand up for its citizens—it is what President Rouhani was elected for, to stop the abuse of Iranian citizens by the IRGC who are protecting only their own economic privileges,” he added.

“The Iranian government’s hiding behind judicial independence in the continuing unlawful detention of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe is an outrageous evasion of legal and moral responsibility,” Ghaemi said, “especially when the judiciary demonstrates no such independence from the Revolutionary Guards.

After 19 months in prison, Judge Ghanaatkar of the Branch 33 Court inside Evin Prison informed Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she is facing two new charges. Another charge was thrown out.

She is being accused of joining organizations working to overthrow the Iranian government based on her charity work for the BBC and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The judge asked Zaghari-Ratcliffe, “What is it about you that Sepah [IRGC] are so resistant to releasing you?” according to a paraphrasing of the conversation by the Free Nazanin Campaign.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe had to crawl to a table in the court to sign the charge sheet, which she rejected, due to her physical and emotional deterioration after almost two years in prison.

“How is it that two weeks ago Sepah [the IRGC] wanted to give me temporary release, and now they are inventing new charges?” she asked, according to the paraphrased transcript.

You know this is unfair,” she told the judge. “Whatever decision you make today, you personally are responsible for it before God—for the damage you do to my daughter and her rights,” she said.

Tulip Siddiq, a member of Parliament representing Hampstead and Kilburn where Zaghari-Ratcliffe lives in London, has urged the British government to call for his constituent’s release.

“There is a clear pattern of Iran treating British dual nationals in this way, and the government’s soft-ball approach to the Iranian authorities seems to be doing little to improve their plight,” said Siddiq in a statement issued on October 9.

“The foreign secretary must formally and unreservedly call for my constituent’s release, and must express his concerns at these developments with his counterpart in the Iranian government,” he added.

In September 2017, the British and Iranian governments signed the biggest post-Iranian-nuclear-deal contract between Iran and Britain, unveiling a new $720 million contract at a signing ceremony in London between the Iranian Ministry of Energy and the UK company Quercus to develop a new solar farm in Iran.

“The Iranian ambassador and the UK government need to stand up, and say they will protect British-Iranians,” said Ratcliffe. “It is not enough just to focus in public on their business deals, and to keep a silent pretense. It looks like heads in the sands.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s three-year-old daughter has been in the care of her grandparents in Tehran since her mother was arrested in April 2016 at the Imam Khomeini International airport.


Imprisoned Teacher’s Rights Activist: I am Legally Entitled to a Public Trial

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Iranian labor rights activist Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi.

An imprisoned teachers’ rights activist has been refusing food and water, pledging to continue his hunger strike until his 14-year combined prison sentence is reviewed in a public trial.

Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi, the former spokesman for the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), was taken to Evin Prison in Tehran on September 12, 2017, to serve the sentences that were issued for his peaceful defense of labor rights.

“I have warned the Tehran prosecutor’s office that I will go on a dry hunger strike the day I am returned to prison,” wrote Beheshti-Langroudi in a post on the Telegram messaging network on August 28, 2017.

“I am a teacher and a trade union activist and board member of the Teachers’ Trade Association, a lawful organization,” he added.

Beheshti-Langroudi believes the charges that he was convicted of during a closed-door brief trial are politically motivated.

“My demand is completely lawful,” he said in an interview published on the Hoghough Moaelm va Karegar [Teachers’ and Workers’ Rights] website on the day of his return to prison. “Based on Article 168 of the Constitution, cases like mine should be tried in public in an open court in the presence of a jury.”

Based on Article 168, “Political and press offenses will be tried openly and in the presence of a jury, in courts of justice.”

“What we are witnessing in the revolutionary courts, such as the sentences against me, which were issued in a closed session in a matter of minutes, are in no way compatible with Article 168,” he added in the interview.

Beheshti-Langroudi also wrote on Telegram that his convictions are primarily due to charges brought against him by the Intelligence Ministry when it operated under conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-13) before centrist President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013.

“I was expecting the Intelligence Ministry to stop persecuting political and civil rights activists [under Rouhani], but my summons and other recent harsh actions show that nothing has changed,” he said.

The Revolutionary Court in Tehran has sentenced the 57-year-old to prison three separate times during the past 10 years.

Beheshti-Langroudi was sentenced to four years in prison in 2007 for attending a demonstration alongside thousands of workers demanding better employment conditions; five years in prison in 2010 for protesting the abuse of teachers’ rights in Iran; and another five years in prison in 2015 for participating in a peaceful teacher’s rights rally.

He was previously arrested on September 6, 2015, to begin serving his sentences, but was released in May 2016 after going on a 22-day hunger strike.

Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.

Independent unions are not allowed to operate in Iran, strikers often lose their jobs and risk arrest, and labor leaders who attempt to organize workers and bargain collectively are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison sentences.

Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry is Keeping Prominent Rights Lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani in Prison, Says Daughter

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Abdolfattah Soltani’s daughter, Maede Soltani.

Abdolfattah Soltani, who spent most of his legal career defending political prisoners before becoming one himself, continues to be denied parole and adequate medical treatment as he enters his seventh year in prison, his daughter told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“By law, my father should have been freed three years ago after serving a third of his 10-year prison sentence,” said Maede Soltani on September 10, 2017.

“However, the judiciary has prevented this without any clear reason,” said Maede Soltani, who lives in Germany. “They don’t want him to go free only because he insists on his rights and innocence. The judiciary isn’t impartial or independent. The real decision-maker is the Intelligence Ministry.”

The 63-year-old prominent human rights lawyer has been behind bars since 2011, serving a 13-year prison sentence for “being awarded the [2009] Nuremberg International Human Rights Award,” “interviewing with media about his clients’ cases,” and “co-founding the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”

According to Maede Soltani, her grandmother, Masoumeh Dehghan, was explicitly told by a judicial official that the Intelligence Ministry, as the arresting authority, opposes releasing the attorney despite his eligibility for parole and the fact he’s in poor health.

She added that officials are upset that prominent activists visited Soltani when he was granted medical furlough (temporary leave) in the past.

“It’s a violation of the law and unreasonable to ask why political opposition figures or critics [of the government] came to see him while he was on leave,” she said. “We can’t close the door to our home to visiting friends and colleagues.”

Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code allows prisoners to be conditionally released after serving a third of their sentence.

“During his six years in prison, my father has been suffering from problems in his digestive tract, blood pressure fluctuations, and anemia, neither of which existed before he was incarcerated,” Maede Soltani told CHRI.

“Even the doctors have said that his health issues are due to his imprisonment and he needs medical care and rest,” she added. “But the judicial officials give all sorts of excuses for opposing medical leave.”

Maede Soltani criticized President Hassan Rouhani for not preventing the Intelligence Ministry, which operates under him, from abusing citizens’ rights.

“Mr. Rouhani has said some slogans in defense of citizens’ rights, but that has made no difference in the Intelligence Ministry’s decisions or else my father, who happens to be a defender of citizens’ rights and freedoms, would not be sitting in prison,” she said. “I believe the Intelligence Ministry is still being run by the same gang who took away my father’s freedom.”

Signed by Rouhani in December 2016, six months before he ran for re-election, the Charter on Citizens’ Rights defends civil rights over and above the Constitution, but the Rouhani government implemented it without a path to implementation.

Condition of Hunger Strikers in Iranian Prison Deteriorates while Judiciary Does Nothing

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Families Dismayed Over Lack of Critically Needed Medical Treatment at Rajaee Shar Prison

August 30, 2017—The medical condition of more than a dozen political prisoners at Iran’s Rajaee Shar Prison, who have been on prolonged hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions of their incarceration, is deteriorating rapidly, yet judicial and prison officials are neither providing proper medical treatment nor addressing the strikers’ demands for humane conditions at the prison.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran(CHRI) calls on the judiciary, who has authority over the country’s State Prison Organization, to immediately provide full and proper medical treatment to these prisoners and to address their lawful demands for humane treatment at the prison.

To date, the Iranian authorities’ response to the growing crisis has been dismissive. Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said on August 23, “To those prisoners who resort to hunger strikes and other actions, we say these methods have been defeated…. The judicial system will not surrender to their threats…. Prisoners must endure their punishment to the fullest.”

“The Iranian’s judiciary’s denial of these political prisoners’ legitimate demands may cost the lives of prisoners who have no other way to attract attention to the inhumane conditions at the prison,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of CHRI.

“The judiciary’s response to date is a complete abrogation of their responsibility for the prisoners’ lives,” added Ghaemi.

The parents of two political prisoners on hunger strike have expressed grave concern about their condition and treatment inside Rajaee Shahr Prison, where some of the more than a dozen inmates have been on hunger strike for nearly a month.

Political prisoners Majid Asadi (right) and Jafar Eghdami.

“He’s not good after almost 30 days on hunger strike,” said Zahra Eghdami, the mother of Jafar (Shahin) Eghdami, in an interview with CHRI on August 27, 2017.

“When I visited my son on Wednesday (August 23),” she added, “he could hardly stand on his feet or walk. They don’t have a decent clinic there and because of that many of the families are worried what might happen but no one is doing anything about it wherever we complain.”

Jafar Eghdami, who has less than one year left of his 10-year prison sentence for peaceful political activities, is one of 15 to 20 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have been refusing food after the unannounced transfer of more than 50 inmates from Ward 12 to the security-enhanced Ward 10 on July 30, 2017.

The hunger strikers are demanding the return of vital medications and other personal belongings left behind during the transfer, and protesting the additional security cameras, listening devices and poor ventilation in their new quarters.

Zahra Eghdami told CHRI that her son had been sent to solitary confinement for 10 days as punishment for going on a hunger strike but he had refused to end his protest.

“They sent my son to prison for no reason and he has been serving his time but they can’t stop harassing him,” the 60-year-old mother said. “One day they move them and take away their belongings, then on another day they cut off visitations. Every day they are harassing them. They do nothing but endanger the prisoners’ lives. Let them finish the prison term imposed on them and stop bothering them.”

Jafar Eghdami was arrested on August 29, 2008 during a gathering at Khavaran Cemetery in south Tehran to commemorate victims of the 1988 mass political executions. He was initially sentenced to five years in prison by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, but his sentence was doubled on appeal when the prosecutor demanded a heavier punishment.

Mohammad Asadi, the father of Majid Asadi, another political prisoner on hunger strike at Rajaee Shahr, told CHRI that the authorities were not responding to pleas from the families to check on the hunger strikers’ condition or paying attention to their demands.

“We, the families, have gone to every office in the prison system but nobody listened,” Mohammad Asadi said. “The Tehran prosecutor’s office said they are not in charge and they told us to go to the Prisons Organization but over there they told us that the Rajaee Shahr officials are responsible.”

A former student activist, Majid Asadi was arrested in February 2017 without a warrant by Intelligence Ministry agents at his home in Karaj. He has been charged for acting against national security but no trial date has been set, according to his father.

Among the confirmed hunger strikers, CHRI has learned that the following are especially in poor health: Saeed Masouri, Saeed Shirzad, Shahin Zoghitabar, Reza Akbari Mofared, Abolghasem Fouladvand, Hassan Sadeghi, Reza Shahabi, Mohammad Nazari, Payam Shakiba, Mohammad Banazadeh, Amir Khizi, and Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri.

“Iran is obligated under Iranian and international law to provide full medical treatment and humane conditions to all prisoners,” said Ghaemi. “They can either continue to pass the buck around to different bureaucracies inside the country or immediately address this life-threatening situation and be accountable to the prisoners under their care.”


Taheri’s Death Sentence Will Not Stand, Says Hopeful Lawyer

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The lawyer for imprisoned Iranian spiritual leader Mohammad Ali Taheri is optimistic that the latest death sentence against his client will again be turned down upon appeal.

The verdict, issued by Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court on August 27, 2017 on the charge of “corruption on earth” will be appealed within the 20-day legal deadline, attorney Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

“The Supreme Court has already rejected the death sentence against my client on the same charge and I am hopeful that it will once again declare the verdict unlawful and reject it,” said Tabatabaee.

The attorney added that the verdict had been issued on the basis of Article 286 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code which states, “Any person, who extensively commits felony against the bodily entity of people, offenses against internal or international security of the state, spreading lies, disruption of the economic system of the state, arson and destruction of properties, distribution of poisonous and bacterial and dangerous materials, and establishment of, or aiding and abetting in, places of corruption and prostitution, [on a scale] that causes severe disruption in the public order of the state and insecurity, or causes harsh damage to the bodily entity of people or public or private properties, or causes distribution of corruption and prostitution on a large scale, shall be considered as mofsed-e-fel-arz [corrupt on earth] and shall be sentenced to death.”

As leader of the Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual organization established in the 2000s, Taheri, 61, was arrested on May 4, 2010 and charged with “insulting the sacred,” “immoral contact with women,” and “carrying out illegal medical procedures.” At the time, he also taught at Tehran University and practiced a form of alternative medicine.

He was sentenced to five years in prison and 74 lashes, along with a nine-billion rial (approximately $300,000 USD) fine. But instead of being released at the end of his sentence, he was re-questioned about his books and sentenced to death for spreading “corruption on earth.” In December 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the death penalty and asked the lower court to review and issue a new sentence.

“I don’t understand such a sentence being issued in today’s world where freedom of speech is respected,” Taheri’s sister, Azardokht, told CHRI in reaction to the second death sentence.

“More importantly, the Supreme Court had already acquitted my brother and rejected his execution. So how can you sentence him to death again for the same charge?

“His sentence must be thrown out and he should go free. Any outcome other than his freedom will be unusual and unlawful. This is the verdict his interrogators decided for him. The trial was just a pretense.

“They say the sentence is based on charges stemming from his writings. But they denied several requests by my brother for copies of his book in prison to prepare for his defense. He wrote the books 10 years ago and he’s been in prison since 2010. He needed to read his books again to be able to defend himself.”

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.