Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi arrested, faces the death penalty

After going on trial behind closed doors on Saturday, the family of an Iranian rapper detained for protesting Mahsa Amini’s death said his life was in danger.

Iran has stepped up its crackdown on the protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16 after her arrest in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Toomaj Salehi, a well-known rapper in Iran, was arrested late last month denouncing the regime and expressing support for the protests, according to human rights groups.

“Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi’s so-called ‘trial’ began today in Tehran without a lawyer of his choice,” the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran tweeted.

His family tweeted that his “life is in extreme danger right now” as he faced charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth,” both of which are sharia-related and punishable by death in the Islamic republic.

Salehi vanished at the end of October before reappearing in a video released by Iran’s state-run media on November 2.

The video purported to show the first images of Salehi following his arrest. It showed a tattooed man sitting on the ground in a sleeveless black T-shirt, wearing a blindfold and looking bloodied and bruised.

The man declares: “My name is Toomaj Salehi. I admitted to making a mistake. I suggested that you run. I wasn’t referring to you. Activists denounced the recording as a compelled confession obtained under duress.

Salehi is one of several prominent figures detained as part of a widespread crackdown that has resulted in the arrest of dozens of journalists, lawyers, civil society leaders, and cultural figures. His arrest occurred shortly after he gave a highly critical interview to the Canadian Broadcasting Cooperation.

“You’re dealing with a mafia that’s willing to kill the entire nation… Keep its power, money, and weapons,” Salehi said in the interview.

According to Iranian state media, Salehi was apprehended while attempting to cross one of the country’s western borders, but his family claims he was in the southwestern provinces of Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari at the time.

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