rferl.org – A popular Iranian rapper has been released on bail after spending more than a year in jail for supporting a wave of antigovernment protests sparked by the death in custody of Masha Amini.
Toomaj Salehi, 32, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, on November 18 that he had been freed the same day that the country’s Supreme Court, responding to an appeal, found “flaws in the original sentence” and ordered his release.
The court returned the case to the lower court.
Salehi was sentenced to six years and three months in prison in July on a charge of “corruption on Earth,” which is one of the most serious offenses in Iran’s Islamist system and carries a possible death sentence.
He was acquitted of the charge of “insulting the founder of the Islamic revolution and leadership and communicating with hostile governments.”
After a closed-door trial, the court also ordered Salehi be barred from producing any music or performing for two years after his release.
He had been arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the protests that had erupted the previous month. The protests were triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Amini, who had been detained by the so-called morality police for alleged violations of the country’s strict Islamic dress code. He spent much of his pretrial detention in solitary confinement.
Iranian authorities dismissed the widespread protests as riots instigated by foreign governments. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands arrested by security agents in a brutal crackdown.
Salehi was accused of spreading lies on the Internet and publishing anti-state propaganda.
Salehi, 33, has gained prominence for his lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran. His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country’s leadership, accusing authorities of “suffocating” the people without regard for their well-being.