Iranian rapper faces death penalty

A dissident rapper who backed the anti-government protests in Iran has been charged with “corruption on Earth” and could face the death penalty.

Toomaj Salehi, 31, was also accused of spreading propaganda, co-operating with a hostile government and incitement to violence, a judiciary official said.

The official denied a report by a human rights group that his trial had already begun without a lawyer of his choice.

Mr Salehi was arrested last month after he posted videos of himself protesting.

He also released clips of raps in support of the unrest, which was sparked by the death in police custody 10 weeks ago of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained for allegedly breaking Iran’s strict hijab rules.

Iranian authorities have cracked down violently on the protests, which they have portrayed as “riots” instigated by foreign enemies.

At least 451 protesters have been killed and 18,170 others detained, according to the Human Rights Activists’ News Agency (HRANA). It has also reported the deaths of 60 security personnel.

In an interview with CBC News filmed only a few days before his arrest on 30 October, Mr Salehi said posting videos critical of the establishment was “hard, because you are making yourself a target for the regime forces”.

He also warned that Iranians were living “somewhere horrific” and “dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation… in order to keep its power, money and weapons”.

At the start of November, Iranian state media published a video apparently showing Mr Salehi being detained in the central province of Isfahan, away in one of his videos filmed at a protest.

Freedom of expression advocacy group Article 19 condemned what it said were “forced confessions of rapper Toomaj Salehi under clear duress”. -BBC

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