FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2019
USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin Calls for Immediate Release of Iranian Prisoner of Conscience Mohammad Ali Taheri
WASHINGTON, DC – Gayle Manchin, Vice Chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), expressed renewed concern today about the status of prisoner of conscience Mohammad Ali Taheri. In his latest open letter, sent on January 13 from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Mr. Taheri describes injustice and mistreatment at the hands of Iran’s judicial system and announces that he intends to renounce his Iranian citizenship. Mr. Taheri has also reportedly received death threats from individuals linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“Mohammad Ali Taheri is a peaceful spiritual leader who has been denied freedom because of his religious beliefs,” said Vice Chair Manchin, who adopted Mr. Taheri as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project in 2018. “Iran must take all necessary steps to free Mr. Taheri and ensure his safety and that of all religious prisoners in Iran.”
Mohammad Ali Taheri is the founder of the Erfan Halgheh spiritual movement. In 2011 he was arrested and tried for “touching the wrists of female patients” and “blasphemy,” among other charges. On October 30, 2011, he was sentenced to 74 lashes, a fine, and imprisonment. In 2015, Mr. Taheri was sentenced to death for “corruption on earth.” In 2015 and 2017, Mr. Taheri was handed a death sentence, both times for “corruption on earth.” Iran’s Supreme Court overturned both decisions and referred the case back to the 15th branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Court. In March 2018, the court sentenced Mr. Taheri to a five-year sentence on the same charge.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Kellie Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1-703-898-6554.