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Iranian Rapper Sentenced to Death

(FILE) People hold portraits of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, right, and children, left, who were killed during the protests in Iran, during a rally in Istanbul, on Nov. 26, 2022.

In the U.S. State Department’s recently released report on human rights conditions in 2023, dissident Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi is mentioned among those individuals in Iran whose freedom of expression has been “severely restricted.” His case is listed as an example of how Iranian authorities “use the law to intimidate or prosecute persons who directly criticized the government or raised human rights concerns.”

The State Department noted that at the end of 2023, Salehi, who had been charged with one of highest crimes in Iran’s legal system — “corruption on earth” — was “awaiting a sentence.”

That wait is now over; Salehi has been sentenced to death.

A popular singer and songwriter, Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after publicly supporting the massive protests that broke out after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini. Amini had been detained by the morality police for improperly wearing her hijab. Her death inspired the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran. The regime responded with a brutal crackdown against dissent. Hundreds were killed; thousands arrested, and to date, nine people were executed in protest-related cases.

Salehi, who in his music denounced the Iranian regime’s repression, is among the most prominent figures arrested. He was released on bail in November 2023 on the orders of Iran’s Supreme Court, only to be re-arrested days later after posting a video describing the torture he endured in prison. A revolutionary court in Isfahan recently issued the verdict and the sentence of death.

UN experts, who have raised the case of Toomaj Salehi with Iranian authorities at various occasions since his arrest in 2022, said they “are alarmed by the imposition of the death sentence and the alleged ill-treatment of Mr. Salehi which appears to be related solely to the exercise of his right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity.”

U.S. State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel called Salehi’s treatment “another example of the Iranian regime’s horrific and pervasive human rights abuses.” He said, “We once again condemn the Iranian regime’s use of the death sentence as a tool to suppress people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms,” and added that the United States will continue to make clear in public fora the egregiousness of such cases so that with the international community, “we can further collectively hold the Iranian regime accountable for its crackdowns.”

© Voice of America 2024


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