An Iranian court has sentenced Mostafa Hosseini Tabatabaei, an Islamologist and scholar of Quran, and seven of his students to a total of 28 years in prison and deprivation of civil rights for their views on Shia Islam.

Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Tabatabaei to eight years in prison. The other defendants in the case (Abdolhamid Asoodeh, Majid Naseri, Mohsen Rezvan Khaledi, Koroush Moazzeni, Alireza Bahadori-Nejad, Reza Rahnama and Mohammad-Hossein Encores) received prison sentences ranging between two to five years.

Fears are growing that the 87-year-old Tabatabaei, who is said to be suffering from heart problems and other ailments related to his age, will be sent to prison to serve his term.

Tabatabaei “was recognized as a religious authority 60 years ago,” an informed source tells IranWire, adding that he has been harassed by the authorities in the past over his criticism of “how Islam is interpreted in today’s Iran.”

According to the indictment, seen by IranWire, the defendants faced 10 charges such as “denying the guardianship of Imam Ali,” whom Shias consider as being the rightful heir to Islam’s Prophet Mohammad, “denying” the Guardianship of the Islamist Jurist, which is the theological foundation of the Islamic Republic, “accusing of polytheism those who accept the guardianship of the Prophet’s family,” “opposing pilgrimages to shrines,” “accusing Shias of extremism,” “denying the clairvoyance” of Shia saints, and “rejecting” the Shia Twelver eschatological belief in the return of their Hidden Imam in the end of time.

The IranWire source said the evidence presented to court included a set of videos that Tabatabaei’s students recorded in private meetings with the scholar.

According to documents received by IranWire, the prosecution also presented the text of numerous interrogation sessions during which the interrogators forced the defendants to talk about their religious beliefs, meaning that the accused were subjected to inquisition-style interrogations, which is forbidden by the Islamic Republic’s constitution.

The case against the accused was launched in 2018 when security agents raided the home of Asoodeh. The informed source said that around 20 external hard disks were confiscated during the raid, along with laptops and other electronic devices owned by the family. None of the confiscated items have been returned.

According to the source, the content of the hard discs included discussions between Tabatabaei and his students, and most of them have never been published in any form.

“Since 2003, Abdolhamid Asoodeh was the administrator of Tabatabaei’s website. Throughout these years, Mr. Tabatabaei was repeatedly summoned and questioned about what was posted on his website. But the content on his website has almost nothing to do with the indictment against them. In these years, they put a lot of pressures on him and his students.”

“They say that his beliefs are deviant, that he is a ‘Unitarian’ and believes that Shias are polytheist. But this isn’t true at all. Mr. Tabatabaei does not believe that Shi’ism is polytheistic. He objects against extremism among the faithful…He criticizes pilgrimages to shrines and the belief that God’s creatures have godlike attributes.”

According to information received by IranWire, Asoodeh was kept in solitary confinement for 57 days and was subjected to extensive psychological torture.

“In his first 40 days in detention, he wasn’t given clean clothes, not even clean underwear, and he was forced to pray with the same dirty clothing for 40 days. He was reading the Quran during solitary confinement, but the interrogator took his glasses away to harass him and gave them back one week later,” a source told IranWire.

The other defendants were also pressured to make confessions against their teacher, for instance that he has received foreign money and entertained relations with Saudi Arabia, whose official religion is a branch of Sunni Wahhabism.

Tabatabaei himself was not arrested along with his students in 2021, but the authorities installed a camera in front of his home and threatened to take his visitors into custody, according to the source.

In May 2022, the old man was forced to commute every day for 23 days to be interrogated for up to five hours about his religious beliefs.

“Over the past four years, 41 friends of Mr. Tabatabaei have been interrogated. The cases against 28 of them have been dropped, but eight of them will be tried,” the source said.

Source » iranwire