Toomaj Salehi: London protest calls for release of Iranian rapper on death row

Iranian court sentenced Salehi, 33, on charge of 'corruption on Earth'

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Protesters staged a demonstration in central London on Sunday calling for the release of a popular Iranian rapper who was given a death sentence last week.

The protesters wore masks depicting the face of Toomaj Salehi, 33, and erected a mock gallows outside Downing Street on Sunday.

Salehi was condemned to death by the Isfahan Revolutionary Court "on the charge of corruption on Earth", Iranian media reported on Wednesday, quoting his lawyer.

Salehi is known for using his lyrics to criticise Iran, highlighting corruption, poverty, state executions and the killing of protesters.

Placards and flags, including one reading “Free Toomaj Salehi – Death sentence for rapping”, were carried with Iranian flags by the protesters.

Other protests for Salehi have taken place around the world at the weekend, including in Spain, the US and Australia.

France on Thursday condemned as "unacceptable" his death sentence.

"France strongly condemns this verdict, which comes on top of numerous other death sentences and unjustifiable executions linked to the 2022 protests in Iran," the French Foreign Ministry said, describing Salehi as a "committed artist".

Italy also spokes out against the sentence, with Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani saying: "I strongly condemn the Iranian authorities' sentence imposing the death penalty on musician Toomaj Salehi."

"The government opposes the death penalty in all places and circumstances. We continue to defend freedom and human rights around the world."

People rally on the death anniversary of Mahsa Amini - in pictures

Ten UN experts also called for Salehi's release.

The experts, who are independent of the UN, said they were "alarmed by the death sentence and the alleged ill-treatment of Mr Salehi".

"Art must be allowed to criticise, to provoke, to push the boundaries in any society," they said in a statement.

"As harsh Mr Salehi's songs are of the government," the experts said, he was only exercising his "artistic freedom and cultural rights".

They said Salehi was initially sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the 2022 protests sparked by the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, 22.

But he was later released by Iran's Supreme Court.

However, Salehi was held again in November last year for criticising the government and saying he was tortured while in custody.

Having been charged with "propaganda against the state", the experts said, Salehi has now been condemned to death.

Thousands defy Iranian police to mourn Mahsa Amini - video

Thousands defy Iranian police to mourn Mahsa Amini

TOPSHOT - This UGC image posted on Twitter reportedly on October 26, 2022 shows an unveiled woman standing on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini's home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to mark 40 days since her death, defying heightened security measures as part of a bloody crackdown on women-led protests.  - A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since 22-year-old Amini died on September 16 following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the country's strict rules on hijab headscarves and modest clothing.  (Photo by UGC  /  AFP)  /  Israel OUT - NO Resale - NO Internet  /  XGTY / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT AFP -  SOURCE: ANONYMOUS - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO INTERNET - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - NO RESALE - NO ARCHIVE -NO ACCESS ISRAEL MEDIA / PERSIAN LANGUAGE TV STATIONS OUTSIDE IRAN /  STRICTLY NO ACCESS BBC PERSIAN /  VOA PERSIAN /  MANOTO-1 TV /  IRAN INTERNATIONAL / RADIO FARDA - AFP IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DIGITAL ALTERATIONS TO THE PICTURE'S EDITORIAL CONTENT  /

The months of unrest after Ms Amini's death on September 16, 2022, saw hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands more arrested.

Iranian officials called the protests "riots" and accused Tehran's foreign foes of fomenting the unrest.

Nine men have been executed in protest-related cases involving killings and other violence against security forces.

Ms Amini had been arrested for not wearing the hijab according to the strict dress code.

After her death, a growing number of women began appearing in public across the country without adhering to the dress code, with the morality police keeping a low profile.

But since April 13 Iran's police have started to toughen controls on women who flout the rules, according to local media.

The UN experts said it was becoming increasingly common in Iran for "artists, activists and journalists" to be arrested and charged with "publishing false news … or 'propaganda against the state'".

The independent experts – five special rapporteurs and the five members of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – are appointed by the Human Rights Council, although they do not speak on behalf of the UN.

Updated: April 29, 2024, 9:06 AM