Saturday, July 13, 2024

Iranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi Has Death Sentence Overturned, Faces Retrial

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Toomaj Salehi, the dissident Iranian rapper sentenced to death in April for releasing music critical of the country’s government, had the punishment overturned Saturday and will face retrial.

Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raesian wrote on social media (via the Guardian), “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.”

Salehi was arrested in Oct. 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 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 Salehi was being held in solitary confinement and tortured, with U.N. experts saying he had a broken nose, several broken fingers, and damaged legs. There were also concerns that his court hearings took place behind closed doors without his lawyer present. 

In April, the 33-year-old Salehi was sentenced to death by hanging, which his lawyers at the time vowed to appeal.

The death sentence drew fierce rebukes from various government and advocacy groups, as well as artists like Coldplay and Sting. The office of the U.S. Envoy to Iran said, “We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence,” while also mentioning the five-year prison sentence handed out to another artist, the Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. 


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.”

The statement continued, “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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