No early release for 'cult leader'

Watford Observer, UK/November 26, 2009

An alleged cult leader jailed for his role in a vicious double assault has had his bid to win early release snuffed out.

Mehdi Zand, leader of a spiritual movement called the World of Yaad, was jailed at St Albans Crown Court in September for his role in the fracas at the Blue Fire Restaurant, in Money Hill Parade, Rickmansworth.

His bid to win early release, however, was rejected by a parole board last week.

The case dates back to the afternoon of November 11 last year, when Zand and two other men burst into the restaurant to settle a bitter personal and financial dispute.

In the fracas that followed, two staff were assaulted and one seriously injured by fellow cult member Francesco Zand, who was jailed for seven years Mehdi Zand, formerly of Tower Hill, Chipperfield, and fellow defendant Mohammed Kashefi, neither of whom landed any blows in the attack, were each handed two year jail terms.

The decision to keep Zand in jail has delighted the victims of the assault, one of whom, who did not wish to be named, sent a letter to Home Secretary Alan Johnson pleading for both men to remain in jail.

The letter claimed he represented an "ongoing threat" to both him and his family, adding: "I am frightened and shocked that there has been no due consideration of the wider threat of returning an influential thought-leader back home where he preaches to his devotees, exactly as he did before we were attacked.

"Allowing Mehdi Zand back to his original environment is not only an end to his punishment but a significant danger to others."

Kashefi will learn the fate of his appeal for parole in the coming weeks. If successful, he will be released on license and his movements monitored by an electronic tag.

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