Iran overturns the death sentence of rapper Toomaj Salehi, charged in connection to 2022 protests


Iran’s Supreme Court overturned the death sentence of a government critic and a popular hip-hop artist, Toomaj Salehi — who came to fame over his lyrics about the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in 2022 — his lawyer Amir Raisian said Saturday.

In a post on social media platform X, Raisian said the court assessed the case and found Salehi’s past six years in prison as “excessive” since the punishment was more than what was allowed by law. He added that another branch of the court will now review the case.

Salehi’s death sentence in April by a Revolutionary Court in the central city of Isfahan created confusion as even Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency and the judiciary did not formally confirm it. Such courts in Iran often involve closed-door hearings with evidence produced secretary and give limited rights to those on trial.

The news quickly drew international criticism from the United States and United Nations experts, who condemned it as a sign of Tehran’s continuing crackdown against all dissent following years of mass protests.

Protesters call on the United Nations to take action against the treatment of women in Iran, following the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police, during a demonstration in New York City on November 19, 2022.
Protesters call on the United Nations to take action against the treatment of women in Iran, following the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police, during a demonstration in New York City on November 19, 2022.

YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images


Salehi, 33, was arrested in October 2022 after publicly supporting demonstrations that erupted after the death in custody of Amini, 22. Amini had been detained by Iran’s morality police for wearing her hijab too loosely, CBS News previously reported. Supporters of Salehi said his charges were based on his music and participation in the protests. 

Salehi rapped about Amini in one video, saying: “Someone’s crime was dancing with her hair in the wind.” In another verse, he predicts the downfall of Iran’s theocracy.

The Revolutionary Court had accused Salehi of “assistance in sedition, assembly and collusion, propaganda against the system and calling for riots,” Raisian said. 

Shortly after his release in November 2023, Salehi was sent to prison again after saying in a video message that he was tortured after his detention in October 2022. State media at the time released a video showing him blindfolded and apologizing for his words, a statement likely to have been made under duress. Later in 2023, a court sentenced Salehi to more than six years in prison.

United Nations investigators say Iran was responsible for Amini’s death, and that it violently put down largely peaceful protests in a monthslong security crackdown that killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained. Nine men have been executed in protest-related cases involving killing and other violence against security forces.



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