Iran’s top court overturns rapper Salehi’s death sentence: lawyer

Tehran   -   Iran’s supreme court has overturned a death sentence against popular rapper Toomaj Salehi who was jailed for backing nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, his lawyer said Saturday. “Salehi’s death sentence was overturned,” the rapper’s lawyer Amir Raisian said in a post on X, adding that the Islamic republic’s top court had ordered a retrial.

In April, an Iranian court sentenced Salehi to death for the capital offence of “corruption on earth”, Raisian said at the time. The rapper was also found guilty of “assistance in sedition, assembly and collusion, propaganda against the state and calling for riots”, the lawyer said. Salehi, 33, was arrested in October 2022 after publicly backing demonstrations which had erupted a month earlier, triggered by Amini’s death in police custody.

Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was detained by the morality police in Tehran over an alleged breach of the Islamic republic’s strict dress rules for women. “The Supreme Court prevented an irreparable judicial error,” Raisian said, adding that the court also ruled that Salehi’s “previous sentence (6 years and three months) was also without compliance with the rules of a multiplicity of crimes.” The months-long protests sparked by Amini’s death saw hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel. Thousands were arrested as authorities moved to quell what they branded foreign-instigated “riots”.

In January, another singer, Mehdi Yarrahi who criticised the headscarf requirement for women was sentenced to a total of two years and eight months in prison on multiple charges, which would have been served concurrently. The court later changed Yarrahi’s sentence to home confinement due to his health issues. Nine men have been executed in protest-related cases involving killings and other violence against security forces. Covering the neck and head has been compulsory for women in Iran since 1983, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Since the protests, women have been increasingly flouting the strict dress code but Iranian police have in recent months toughened controls on women who ignore the rules.

Iranian media has in recent weeks reported that police in the capital have launched a campaign codenamed “Noor”, the Persian word for light, in their efforts to double down on those who break the dress code. In an effort to tackle those breaking hijab laws, the authorities have also shut down cafes and restaurants where the wearing of the hijab was not respected. The country’s parliament has also approved a draft “Chastity and Hijab” law that seeks to toughen penalties on women not adhering to the dress rules.

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