HomeWorldMiddle EastIranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence Overturned by Supreme Court

Iranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi’s Death Sentence Overturned by Supreme Court

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Tehran, Iran — In a significant legal turnaround, the Supreme Court of Iran has overturned the death sentence of rapper Toomaj Salehi, who had been condemned for his vocal support of anti-government protests. The decision has been welcomed by human rights activists and campaigners advocating for his release.

Salehi, 32, was initially arrested in October 2022 amid a wave of nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, while in police custody.

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The protests saw tens of thousands of Iranians taking to the streets, demanding justice and greater freedoms. Salehi’s arrest came after he publicly supported the protests through his music and social media posts, making him a target for the authorities.

His lawyer, Amir Raesian, confirmed that the Supreme Court ordered a retrial, finding that his previous sentence of six years and three months exceeded the legal limits for his offenses under Iran’s multiple-offenses rules. Raesian emphasized that the court’s decision highlighted procedural errors in the earlier sentencing process.

Salehi had initially avoided a death sentence in July 2023 due to a Supreme Court intervention. However, in a subsequent move, the Revolutionary Court in Isfahan charged him with new offenses and sentenced him to death in April 2024 for the capital crime of “corruption on earth,” a charge often used by Iranian authorities against dissidents and activists.

He was also found guilty of several other charges, including assistance in sedition, calling for riots, collusion, and propaganda against the state.

Index on Censorship, a prominent campaign group advocating for freedom of expression, has been working closely with Salehi’s family to secure his release.

The organization expressed relief over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the death sentence but stressed the need for continued vigilance. “It is critical that his rights are properly respected,” the group stated. “Even a shorter period of imprisonment would be an injustice. Salehi has done nothing other than to call for his, and other Iranians’, fundamental rights to be respected.”

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Salehi, known for his bold criticisms of Iran’s leaders and their corruption, had garnered a substantial following through his music. His lyrics often condemned the government’s crackdown on dissent and highlighted social injustices. Despite being banned from performing live concerts, he continued to post his songs on social media platforms, where they gained widespread attention.

The 2022 protests, which Salehi supported, were among the largest Iran had seen in recent years, sparked by Amini’s death after she was detained for allegedly wearing an “improper” hijab. The ensuing crackdown by authorities resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests, drawing international condemnation.

Salehi’s case now returns to court for resentencing, and his supporters remain cautiously optimistic. “This retrial is a crucial step, but we must remain vigilant,” said Raesian. “Toomaj’s fight for justice and freedom of expression is far from over.”

As Iran continues to grapple with internal dissent and calls for reform, Salehi’s case remains emblematic of the broader struggle for human rights in the country. His music and activism have resonated deeply with many Iranians, serving as a powerful reminder of the enduring demand for fundamental freedoms.

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