Member of Spiritual Group Sentenced to Prison and Lashes
Masoumeh Zia, a member of the Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that she has been sentenced to a year in prison and 74 lashes for “disturbing public order” and taking part in a gathering protesting the arrest of the group’s leader, Mohammad Ali Taheri, who has been imprisoned since 2011.
The security establishment has come down hard on Mohammad Ali Taheri and his Erfan-e Halgheh spiritual group, viewing it and any other alternative belief system, especially those which seek converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order. He is being held in prison facing the possibility of the death penalty on the charge of “Corruption on Earth”. He has been accused of illegal medical practices and sacrilegious activities.
Zia, a 38-year-old geologist, was among nearly 80 supporters of Taheri arrested in Tehran last year and held at Evin Prison.
“A number of Taheri’s students and colleagues gathered in front of Evin Prison a couple of times to protest his arrest and I was among them,” Zia told the Campaign. “The gatherings were peaceful and did not create any problems for passersby. We held signs for a couple of hours. Then on October 8, 2014, we were going to gather in front of the Revolutionary Court. But the atmosphere was so tense with the security measures taken on that day that the gathering didn’t take place. The police around the court quickly arrested anyone who looked suspicious.”
“I was arrested on that day with about 57 other women and 20 men. The agents took us to Evin [Prison] inside large vans. Most were let go on the same day… but I and two other women were held between five and eight days and then charged. I don’t know why. We did not do anything illegal,” Zia said.
Zia’s trial was held last February at Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Ahmadzadeh, who sentenced her to the year in prison and 74 lashes. The sentence was upheld by the appellate court, she said.
“I am not a political person at all and I’ve never taken part in political activities,” Zia reiterated to the Campaign.
One of the group’s instructors, Ziba Habibpour, surrendered herself on July 1 to serve a three-year prison sentence.