(CN) – The U.S. State Department on Friday rebuked an Iranian court on Friday for sentencing Mohammad Ali Taheri, the founder of an Iranian spiritual movement, to death.
Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, an attorney for the cleric, said his client was sentenced to death after being convicted of charged of founding a cult. The lawyer said he would appeal the sentence within 20 days.
On Friday, the State Department responded to the sentence, saying the charges of founding a religious cult “and ‘spreading corruption on earth’ are inconsistent with Iran’s international obligations to respect and ensure his freedoms of expression and religion or belief.”
“We are also deeply disturbed by reports that a number of Taheri’s followers have been recently arrested on similar objectionable charges,” a statement from the department said.
The State Department said
It went on to say the United States believes the death penalty should be reserved “only for the most serious crimes.”
“We call on the Iranian Government to take whatever steps necessary to reverse Taheri’s conviction and death sentence. We join our voice with those who call on Iran to uphold its obligations under Iranian and international law and to ensure that the human rights of all individuals in Iran are respected and guaranteed,” the statement said.
The 61-year-old Taheri was sentenced to death in 2014 on similar charges but an appeals court later rejected the verdict. He has been in jail since 2011, when a court sentenced him to five years in prison for blasphemy.
Taheri also has done research on alternative medicine. Iran’s leaders see New Age beliefs as a threat to the principles of Islam.