Toomaj Saleh: Supreme Court overturns rapper’s death sentence

A jailed Iranian rapper sentenced to death for supporting anti-government protests has had his sentence overturned on appeal by the Supreme Court, his lawyer has said.

Toomaj Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of protests that had exploded across Iran.

His lawyer, Amir Raesian, said the Supreme Court has now ordered a retrial, and that the judges decided that Salehi’s previous prison sentence of six years and three months went against Iran’s multiple-offences rules, and was in excess of the legal punishment.

Salehi, 22, was initially sentenced to prison in July 2023, after avoiding a death sentence due to a Supreme Court ruling.

But the following January, the Revolutionary Court in the city of Isfahan charged him with new offences.

He was sentenced to death in April for the capital offence of “corruption on earth”.

The musician was also found guilty of a string of other offences, including assistance in sedition, calling for riots, collusion and propaganda against the state.

Index on Censorship, a campaign group which has been working with Salehi’s family to free the rapper, welcomed the decision to overturn the death sentence.

But it said: “It is critical that his rights are properly respected.”

Salehi’s case has been returned to court for resentencing. “Even a shorter period of imprisonment would be an injustice,” said the Index on Censorship.

“Salehi has done nothing other than to call for his, and other Iranians’, fundamental rights to be respected.”

Through his songs and lyrics, Salehi was infamous for boldly criticising Iran’s leaders for their corruption and crackdowns on dissent.

He had expressed support for the 2022 protests, which were sparked by the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody.

Amini, 22, was visiting Tehran with her family when she was detained by the religious police for allegedly wearing an “improper” hijab.

The crackdown on the protests led to the deaths of hundreds of people, and the arrest of thousands more.

Before the nationwide unrest, Salehi was already an established artist and known as an outspoken figure. He was posting his songs on social media because he was banned from performing in concerts.

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