Iranian rapper receives death sentence for protesting against government

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Iranian rapper, Toomaj Salehi, has been handed the death sentence for supporting Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in 2022 for wearing an “improper hijab” and later passed away while in police custody.

The death of Amini led to demonstrations taking place across in Iran over many months, and Salehi was one of the most prominent organisers. With over two million Instagram followers, the rapper’s voice carried immense weight during this politically turbulent time, and he was first arrested in October 2022.

Although Salehi was initially released, the musician was later sentenced to six years in prison but thanks to a Supreme Court ruling, avoided the death sentence.

However, now, his lawyer, told the Iranian newspaper Shargh that Salehi has been sentenced to death after allegedly being held in solitary confinement and tortured. The lawyer said: “Branch One of the Revolutionary Court of (the central city of) Isfahan in an unprecedented move, did not enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling… and sentenced Salehi to the harshest punishment.”

Salehi was given 20 days to appeal the sentence, and his lawyer has confirmed they plan to challenge the verdict. Additionally, the Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin has been sentenced for five years in prison after being arrested in 2022 and later detained in a psychiatric hospital.

In light of Salehi’s sentence, protestors gathered outside Downing Street in London on April 28th to support the rapper. The demonstrators wore masks featuring Salehi’s face, and held up placards, including one which read, “Free Toomaj Salehi – death sentence for rapping”. Similarly protests have occurred in the United States, Australia and Spain.

Meanwhile, Salehi has also received the backing of the United States’ Office of the Special Envoy for Iran, who posted on social media: “We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence and the five-year sentence for Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. We call for their immediate release.”

The statement continued: “These are the latest examples of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek.”

Additionally, in an interview with ITV News, Salehi’s cousin, Azadeh Babadi, said of his relative’s reaction to the verdict: “I think he would say it’s okay. I know what I stand for, and I’m prepared to face whatever consequences come my way. Don’t worry about me. I’ll stand strong until the very end.”

Babadi added: “We have no hope with the Islamic Republic, but I beg the people outside of Iran to put pressure on their governments so maybe that way we can save Toomaj with international pressure!”

This is a developing story.

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