April 24, 2024

Iranian Revolutionary Court Overrides Supreme Court, Sentences Dissenting Rapper Toomaj Salehi to Death

In a controversial decision, the Isfahan Revolutionary Court has disregarded a Supreme Court verdict and sentenced Toomaj Salehi, a prominent Iranian rapper and dissenting voice, to execution on charges of “corruption on earth.” Amir Reisian, Salehi’s lawyer, expressed his concerns in a discussion with “Shargh Network,” highlighting the court’s unusual move to label the higher court’s ruling as merely “advisory” and assert the independence of the lower court.

On the verdict, he stated: “In an unprecedented move, Branch One of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court did not implement the Supreme Court’s verdict concerning Toomaj Salehi’s 2022 case. They labeled the verdict ‘advisory’ and emphasized the independence of the primary court, sentencing Toomaj Salehi to the severest punishment, execution, for corruption on earth.”

Reisian continued: “The Isfahan Revolutionary Court identified charges of complicity in rebellion, assembly and conspiracy, propaganda against the regime, and incitement to chaos under Article 512 of the Penal Code as examples of corruption on earth, as stated in Article 286. Highlighting the widespread nature of corruption, the court issued an execution order for Mr. Salehi. Previously, the same branch had not confirmed the extent of corruption on earth. Surprisingly, the primary court also considered additional penalties for the execution sentence, sentencing Toomaj Salehi to 2 years of travel ban, 2 years of prohibition from artistic activities, and participation in management and legal skills classes in Isfahan.”

Salehi’s lawyer also spoke about other charges against the singer: “Branch One of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court deemed charges related to disrupting public order, spreading lies, and incitement to chaos via computer crimes as falling under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court 2 and issued no verdict for these charges. For charges related to communication with hostile governments and insulting the leadership, a suspension of proceedings was issued. This decision stems from a previous verdict of acquittal by the same court.”

He added, “We will definitely appeal the verdict issued for Toomaj Salehi. The reality is that the primary court’s decision has evident legal contradictions. Contradicting the Supreme Court’s verdict is the most important and at the same time, the strangest aspect of this decision. The primary court referred to the Supreme Court’s ruling as advisory while the Supreme Court had reviewed Toomaj Salehi’s case, ordered the rectification of defects by the primary court, and emphasized that considering two penalties for one act, the charges against Toomaj Salehi should be reduced from six to three. The Supreme Court had also noted that Salehi’s case would be eligible for a declared amnesty, but not only did this not happen, new charges were added to his case, and he was sentenced to the harshest penalty.”

Regarding reports of a potential pardon for Salehi as well as “a reduction in his sentence,” Reisian stated, “All these reports are false. The verdict by Branch One of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court for Toomaj Salehi is execution. However, the court has requested ‘one degree of leniency’ from the pardon commission due to the ‘youth’ of the accused. Meanwhile, the primary court had the legal opportunity, given the mitigating circumstances verified, to issue a sentence other than execution for Toomaj Salehi but did not do so, only noting that it has requested one degree of leniency from the pardon commission.”

Salehi, also a mechanical engineer, has been a figure of resistance within Iran, using his music to express dissent. He was initially detained in September 2021 but was briefly released on bail. Salehi was arrested again amid the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in October 2022 and has since faced harsh conditions, including extensive periods in solitary confinement. His temporary release in November 2023 was short-lived, as he was re-arrested following an interview about his experiences of torture while detained.

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) condemns this sentencing in the strongest terms, and reiterates its call on the Islamic Republic to halt all applications of the death penalty and to operate its judiciary in keeping with international human rights standards. The imposition of the death penalty on Toomaj Salehi merely for his freedom of expression is a blatant violation of basic human rights. NIAC calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Toomaj Salehi and urges the international community to rally against this miscarriage of justice and support the fight for freedom of expression in Iran. The use of capital punishment generally and especially in cases involving freedom of speech and artistic expression is particularly alarming and further underscores the urgent need for judicial reform throughout Iran.

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