UK business magnate Richard Branson has called for the release of Toomaj Salehi, a popular Iranian rapper who has languished in prison for more than eight months.
Salehi “bravely gave a voice to millions of young Iranians protesting in the street,” the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist said in a tweet on June 6. “As his life hangs in the balance after 8 months+ of imprisonment and torture, we all must give our voice to him and call for his release.”
Rap artist Toomaj Salehi bravely gave a voice to millions of young Iranians protesting in the street. As his life hangs in the balance after 8 months+ of imprisonment and torture, we all must give our voice to him and call for his release: https://t.co/T3bxkooeTM #FreeToomaj— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) June 6, 2023
Salehi has gained notoriety for lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty and state executions in Iran.
He was arrested on October 30 after releasing songs in support of nationwide protests sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained in September for allegedly violating mandatory hijab rules. He also posted pictures and videos of himself during demonstrations.
The 33-year-old dissident rapper is facing charges including spreading "corruption on Earth," a charge that can carry a death sentence.
In April, Salehi’s family told IranWire he had been denied medical treatment during months of solitary confinement despite being inflicted serious injuries by his captors in Dastgerd prison in the central city of Isfahan.
The Islamic Republic has cracked down hard on the months-long protests, killing more than 520 people during demonstrations and unlawfully detaining over 20,000 others, including protesters, journalists, lawyers, athletes, and artists, activists say.
Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.