Dissident Rapper’s Death Sentence Overturned in Iran, His Lawyer Says - The World News

Dissident Rapper’s Death Sentence Overturned in Iran, His Lawyer Says

Iran’s supreme court has overturned the death sentence of a dissident rapper who backed nationwide protests, according to his lawyer, reversing an April decision that had brought widespread criticism and outrage from human rights organizations and others.

Amir Raesian, the lawyer for the rapper, Toomaj Salehi, said in a post on X that by overturning the sentence, the court “avoided an irreparable judicial error.” He added that the court found that Mr. Salehi’s earlier prison sentence of six years and three months to be excessive, and that the case would be sent back to a lower court for review.

Mr. Salehi, 33, was one of the most prominent voices during the nationwide protests against Iran’s clerical rulers two years ago after the death in police custody of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini. Ms. Amini had been arrested after the country’s morality police said she had violated Iran’s rules on head scarves.

Mr. Salehi was arrested in October 2022 after he released music criticizing the government and encouraged his followers to participate in demonstrations touched off by the death of Ms. Amini.

The next month, the Iranian authorities charged him with “spreading corruption on earth,” and in July 2023, a court sentenced Mr. Salehi to more than six years in prison after a closed-door trial. He was also banned from producing music or singing for two years, according to a State Department document.

Iran’s Supreme Court found issues with that ruling, and Mr. Salehi was released from prison in November 2023, but he was rearrested less than two weeks later and charged with “propaganda against the state,” according to U.N. experts. Human rights groups have also said that Mr. Salehi has been tortured in prison.

After Mr. Salehi was sentenced to death in April, writers, singers and other artists signed an open letter published by Index on Censorship, a group that advocates for free expression, calling for his release.

“We stand in solidarity with Toomaj Salehi,” the letter read. “We call for his death sentence to be immediately and unconditionally quashed and for him to be released from detention without delay, with all other charges dismissed.”

The Center for Human Rights in Iran, an independent advocacy group based in New York, had called the death sentence a “new low in Iran’s crackdown on dissent.”

Iran is responsible for 74 percent of all recorded executions around the world, according to the rights group Amnesty International, which in June called for the sentence against Mr. Salehi to be repealed. “For too long, the Iranian government has been using the death penalty to instill fear in the Iranian population and tighten their grip on power,” it wrote at the time.

Helmut Brandstätter, an Austrian lawmaker who has supported Mr. Salehi, called for the rapper’s release on Sunday after the reports that the death sentence had been overturned.

“I have been following his fate with horror for years. He was imprisoned and tortured, just because he showed solidarity with the women in Iran,” Mr. Brandstätter said on social media, adding: “He must be freed.”

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