Photo: Mostafameraji

Iranian Rapper Death Sentence Overturned

Dissident Iranian rapper sentenced to death in April for releasing critical music of his country’s government, on Saturday Toomaj Salehi had the punishment overturned in in order to face retrial.

In a statement  (via the Guardian), Salehi’s attorney Amir Raesian wrote on social media “As expected, the Supreme Court avoided an irreparable judicial error,” and that the supreme court “reiterated that even the previous prison sentence (6 years and three months) did not comply with the rules of multiplicity of crimes… and is in excess of legal punishment.”

During October of 2022 in the midst of the uprising sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by Iran’s morality police and later died in their custody, Salehi was arrested and ultimately charged with “spreading corruption on earth,” a death penalty offense, for releasing music critical of the government and urging his followers to join the protests.

Following his arrest, allegations emerged that the musician was being held in solitary confinement and tortured, with United Nations experts stating that the artist suffered a broken nose, several broken fingers, and damaged legs. Additionally, there were concerns that his court hearings took place behind closed doors without his lawyer present. 

In April of 2022, the 33-year-old singer/songwriter was sentenced to death by hanging, a decision that drew a vigorous response from various government and advocacy groups, as well as artists like Coldplay and Sting. The office of the United States Envoy to Iran said, “We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence,” adding that a five-year prison sentence handed out to another artist, the Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. 

With his attorneys vowing to appeal the initial sentence, following the Iranian supreme court’s ruling, the Index on Censorship, Human Rights Foundation and Salehi’s international legal team said in a statement, “While the supreme court’s decision is an important correction to Mr Salehi’s cruel and unlawful treatment, it is critical that his rights are properly respected.” “Mr Salehi’s case has been returned to Branch 1 of the Isfahan revolutionary court for resentencing. Even a shorter period of imprisonment would be an injustice: Mr Salehi has done nothing other than to call for his, and other Iranians’, fundamental rights to be respected. He must be free to continue his music and seek the necessary medical care he needs following his imprisonment, free of any continued imprisonment, harassment or persecution.”

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: Mostafameraji