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Source: Iranintl

Apr 26, 2024

Who Sentenced Dissident Iranian Rapper To Death?

By Iran International Newsroom

Iran International's investigation has identified the judge who handed down the death sentence to Toomaj Salehi, the prominent dissident rapper imprisoned in Iran.

Who sentenced Toomaj to death?

Mohammad Reza Tavakoli, in his capacity as the head of the first branch of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court, together with two officials only identified by their last names, Ravanmehr and Ebrahimi, sentenced Toomaj to death. Iran's Judiciary is one of the most hardliner institutions in the Islamic system of government, where judges, prosecutors and security agents work in tandem to suppress dissent. The Judiciary is under the control of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

A friend of Toomaj described Mohammed Reza Tavakoli as an "illiterate with a great desire to be promoted in the judiciary.”

“Aiming for power and gaining the approval of his superiors who were seeking a harsher sentence, he increased the number of charges against Toomaj from three to ten,” the unidentified friend told Iran International.

Reza Akvanian, a human Rights Journalist, at Iran International said on Friday that “Tavakolian has a history of violating human rights, women’s rights, and persecution of the Bahaei minorities."

Tavakoli was honored as an "exemplary judge of the Islamic Republic" in 2014.

Why does it matter to identify the judge?

Perhaps there is a reason why Iranian state media did not directly name the judge who handed down the death sentence in their coverage of the event.

Toomaj's first prison sentence in July 2023 was handed down by Morteza Barati, who is listed on the UK and Canada sanctions lists.

His sanction is outlined on the website of the British government as follows: “He is and has been involved in the commission of serious human rights violations in Iran, namely being responsible for engaging in serious violations of the right to freedom of expression, the right not to be subject to cruel, degrading, or inhuman punishment and the right to a fair trial through his role as presiding judge of Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Courts of Isfahan.”

Akvanian explained that naming these individuals makes it easier to hold them responsible for "atrocities they commit."

“Iranians in the West can request international sanctions against these individuals once they're identified so they don't escape the consequences of their actions,” Akvanian added.

Why was Toomaj sentenced to death?

Originally sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the 2022 Mahsa Amini protests, Salehi was released after the Islamic Republic Supreme Court reviewed the original sentence and reduced the charges.

The artist was again arrested in November 2023 for releasing a video and expressing his views concerning the Iranian government and revealing that he had been tortured and held in solitary confinement for 252 days following his arrest in October 2022.

After another trial, instead of reducing the alleged offenses in accordance with the Supreme Court's request, the new judge increased the charges, including “Spreading corruption on earth,” an Islamic legal term in Iranian laws, pertaining to actions that undermine the regime. “Corruption on earth" and "Moharebeh" are considered the most serious crimes by the Islamic Republic.

Why was Toomaj's death sentence deemed ‘unusual’?

Amir Raeisian, Salehi’s lawyer, told Roydad24 website in Tehran on Thursday that his client had already been acquitted of "corruption on earth" in the previous court.

Toomaj Salehi's other lawyer, Mostafa Nili, said the verdict had "obvious legal conflicts" in a message on X on Wednesday.

Since the new court was held based on the Supreme Court’s decision to review and lower the charges, the death sentence is deemed unusual.

Photo of Mohammad Ghobadlou

Only one other case is similar to this case. Executed protester Mohammad Ghobadlou, like Salehi, was arrested during the height of the Mahsa Amini protests. His lawyer received less than 12 hours' notice that his client would be executed, despite the Supreme Court's decision to quash Ghobadlou's death sentence and order a retrial in July 2023. A retrial that never took place.

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