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Iranian dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi's death penalty overturned

Supreme Court orders retrial in case of imprisoned rapper whose death sentence sparked international outcry
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi in an Instagram post (Toomaj Salehi/Instagram)

Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi has had his death sentence overturned in Iran following international outcry, according to his lawyer, with the Supreme Court ordering a retrial.

Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after denouncing the government and showing support for protests over the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini following her arrest for wearing an inappropriate hijab.

On 24 April 2024, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court handed a death penalty to Salehi, leading to widespread international condemnation.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday, however, his lawyer said the Supreme Court had avoided an "irreparable judicial error" and overturned the sentence.

"The death sentence of Toomaj Salehi was overturned and, based on the appeal decision of the 39th branch of the Supreme Court, the case will be referred to the same branch for consideration," he wrote.

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The court also ruled that even a previous prison sentence against the rapper was "in excess of legal punishment", he added.

Salehi was one of a number of prominent figures to be arrested in a mass crackdown following the Amini demonstrations, which saw dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society and cultural figures taken into custody.

His detention came shortly after he gave an interview, highly critical of the Islamic Republic, to Canadian media in which he said protesters were "dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation ... in order to keep its power, money and weapons".

Iranian state media at the time claimed Salehi had been arrested while trying to cross one of the country's western borders, but his family denied this, saying he was in the southwestern province of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari at the time.

His X account, currently run by an "administrator", praised the overturning of the death penalty but said he should never been imprisoned in the first place.

"Toomaj was imprisoned without any valid legal reason and only for expressing critical opinions and supporting the voices of the protesting people ... his continued imprisonment has no legal basis and he should be released as soon as possible and returned to his big family," it said.

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