Jul 6, 2023
A groundswell of support for popular Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has emerged on social media as his fate hangs in the balance after a court held a politically-motivated trial.
With the court considering a verdict after two closed-door sessions, the hashtag #FreeToomaj was used approximately 100,000 times on Twitter on July 5 alone to express support for the 33-year-old artist, considered by many as the voice of the nationwide protests that rocked the country for months last year.
Many Twitter posts bore handwritten messages that read: "Toomaj Salehi is the red line of the Iranian nation."
Salehi had his second court hearing on July 2, with a verdict expected to be announced in the coming days.
Accusations leveled against him include "corruption on Earth," "cooperation with a hostile government," "propaganda activity against the system" and "inciting riots." Some of the charges carry the death penalty.
Human rights activists have decried the legal proceedings against the singer, with his lawyer Amir Amir Raisian being denied full access to trial materials and being allowed to meet with his client for only half an hour at the Isfahan Intelligence Detention Center. Salehi is said to have been subjected to “severe torture” at the hands of his jailers while in solitary confinement.
Salehi was arrested on November 30 amid anti-government demonstrations that erupted following the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini while she was in police custody for allegedly flouting the Islamic Republic’s mandatory headscarf rules.
The rapper had released songs in support of the demonstrations demanding more freedoms and women's rights, and posted pictures and videos of himself during protests.
More than 520 people have been killed in the security forces’ clampdown on the women-led protest movement and over 19,000 have been unlawfully detained, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
According to reports received by a fact-finding mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, at least 26 people have been sentenced to death in connection with the protests, while dozens more have been charged with or face offenses carrying the death penalty.
The mission said that at least seven men have been executed following hasty proceedings, amid serious allegations of rights violations, including of confessions extracted under torture.