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Iranian rapper given 6-year prison sentence over protests

July 10, 2023

Toomaj Salehi has avoided a death sentence over his participation in the nationwide protests last year. So far, Iran has executed seven people in connection with the unrest.

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi
The 33-year-old rapper wrote songs calling for the downfall of Iran's theocracyImage: toomajofficial/Instagram

A prominent rapper who backed the large-scale protests that shook Iran last year has been jailed for six years and three months, his lawyer said on Monday. 

Toomaj Salehi was charged with "corruption on earth" — an accusation that covers a broad range of offenses including those related to Islamic morality and can carry the death penalty.

The judicial decision to not put the prominent musician to death saved Salehi from the fate that led to the execution of at least seven other protesters.

Salehi was also acquitted of "insulting the Supreme Leader" and "cooperation with hostile governments," his lawyer Rosa Etemad Ansari said.

Rapper released from solitary confinement

The 32-year-old rapper, who had been held in solitary confinement in Dastgerd prison in central Iran, was allowed to rejoin the general prison population, Salehi's lawyer added. 

 Thousands of Ukraine and Iran supporters demonstrated for human rights, equality and against war in Cologne
Salehi's supporters feared that he could be executedImage: P. Nigro/aal.photo/IMAGO

Meanwhile, German lawmaker Ye-One Rhie, who has campaigned on his behalf, demanded Salehi's release, saying in a tweet, "He did not commit any of the crimes he was accused of."

She added that she wanted to meet the rapper to confirm his situation, and later welcomed Salehi's transferral from solitary confinement.

Salehi, who was arrested last October, has made songs and music videos criticizing Iran's government and his albums have been widely circulated online. 

Following the arrest last year, state media released a video showing him blindfolded and renouncing his criticisms of the government. 

Why was Toomaj Salehi arrested?

Salehi was among thousands of Iranians who took to the streets after the death of Jina Masha Amini in police custody.

The 22-year-old woman was arrested by Iran's morality police for allegedly violating the country's Islamic dress code. 

Iran: Jailed rapper Toomaj Salehi could face death penalty

The protests spread across the country and left over 500 people dead, including dozens of security personnel. 

Almost 20,000 were arrested in connection with what officials labeled as "riots."

So far, Iran has executed seven people in connection with the protests.

Although the protests have largely died down this year, there are still widespread signs of discontent. 

ara/ab (AP, AFP, Reuters)