Iran rapper Toomaj Salehi rearrested days after release on bail

Salehi was first arrested after publicly backing anti-government protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody.

A woman holds a poster of rapper Toomaj Salehi, who was handed a prison sentence over his support of the Mahsa Amini protests [File: Robert Deyrail/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images]Published On 30 Nov 202330 Nov 2023

Iranian authorities have rearrested rapper Toomaj Salehi, less than two weeks after his release on bail following his detention over supporting last year’s anti-government protests.

Salehi, 32, was initially arrested in October 2022 after publicly backing the wave of demonstrations that erupted a month earlier, triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd, who had been arrested by the country’s morality police over an alleged breach of Iran’s strict dress rules.

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“Salehi has been arrested for publishing false information and disturbing public opinion after being released upon an order by Iran’s Supreme Court to revise his case,” the judiciary’s news agency, Mizan, said on Thursday.

“My client has been arrested again today, but we don’t know the details,” Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raisian told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Salehi, who wrote songs about the protests, was initially sentenced to six years in prison on multiple charges, including “corruption on earth” – one of Iran’s most serious offences, which carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty.

The rapper was nonetheless freed on bail on November 18, according to Raisian, who told the reformist newspaper Shargh that the Supreme Court had found “flaws in the initial sentence”. He had spent more than a year in custody.

The accusations against Salehi in that case included spreading “lies on the internet” and “propaganda against the state” as well as inciting people to violence.

He was also accused of “having formed and managed illegal groups with the aim of disrupting security in cooperation with a government hostile” to Iran.

“Someone’s crime was dancing with her hair in the wind,” Salehi rapped in a video with more than 450,000 views on YouTube – an apparent reference to Amini.

In another verse, he appears to predict the downfall of Iran’s theocracy: “Your whole past is dark. … Forty-four years of your government, this is the year of failure.”

Iranian officials have labelled last year’s protests “riots” and accused foreign powers of fomenting unrest.

Months of demonstrations across the country after Amini’s death on September 16, 2022, saw hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands more arrested.

Eight men have been executed in protest-related cases involving killing and other violence against security forces.

Source: News Agencies