Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi sentenced to death over Mahsa Amini protests

Revolutionary court ignores earlier supreme court ruling on outspoken regime critic

Toomaj Salehi was found guilty of 'corruption on earth'. @OfficialToomaj / Twitter
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Iran on Wednesday sentenced a popular rapper to death for participating in the nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in morality police custody in 2022.

Toomaj Salehi was sentenced to death by a revolutionary court in Isfahan after being found guilty of "corruption on earth," his lawyer Amir Raeesian told the Iranian Shargh newspaper.

The court did not uphold a supreme court ruling reducing a previous prison sentence to three years, avoiding a death sentence that has seen several protesters executed in the past year.

It had ordered his release on bail in November, but Mr Salehi was re-arrested by security forces less than two weeks later.

The death sentence will be appealed, his lawyer said.

There was no immediate comment from Iranian authorities.

Mr Salehi is one of the most prominent figures associated with the popular protests, which swept across Iran in September 2022 and rocked the decades-long authoritarian rule of the Tehran regime.

Speaking to The National in July, a German MP campaigning for his release said there was "nothing lawful" about his trial, in a country where legal proceedings against dissidents are often criticised as sham proceedings.

"Everything happened behind closed doors. This alone shows how weak the accusations of the Iranian regime against Toomaj are," said Ye-One Rhie, a German MP and supporter of Mr Salehi.

He was tortured in prison and only allowed brief meetings with his lawyers, she added.

Mr Salehi was a long-time critic of Tehran even before the protests over the death of Ms Amini, who was detained by morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab loosely, violating Iran's strict public dress code for women.

The rapper made references to Ms Amini in songs released during the protests, saying in 'Mouse Hole': "Someone’s crime was that her hair was flowing in the wind, someone’s crime was that he or she was brave and were outspoken.”

The ruling comes as Iranians report an increase on morality police crackdowns across Iran.

Last week, morality police officers were filmed violently beating women in the streets of Tehran as activists warned Iran's tensions with Israel were being used to distract from growing oppression.

Human Rights Watch said the rapper's trial and the death sentence are a "cruel and outrageous assault on fundamental freedoms and the right to a fair trial".

“Iran’s revolutionary court judges act like they are empowered to assault citizens’ basic rights and make a mockery of any existing legal safeguards,” said Tara Sepheri Far, HRW's senior Iran researcher.

Salehi’s "outrageous verdict is just the latest manifestation of Iran’s brutal justice system. He should be released immediately," she added.

Iran is one of the world's biggest executioners, according to human rights groups and organisations advocating against the death penalty.

Human rights monitors have raised the alarm over a significant rise in executions, particularly since the start of the Gaza war in October.

Some 129 people, including four women, have been executed so far this year, according to figures from Iran Human Rights.

More than 172 people were put to death between October and December last year, according to data compiled by Iran Human Rights and Hengaw, which tracks human rights violations in Kurdish areas of Iran. It accused Tehran of using international attention on Gaza to increase domestic crackdowns.

Juvenile offenders and members of ethnic minorities make up the majority of those put to death.

Updated: April 25, 2024, 7:23 AM