Society & Culture

Instagram Star Faces Death Penalty in Iran Over Betting Sites

July 15, 2022
2 min read
Milad Hatemi has been charged with "corruption on earth" in connection with allegedly running a betting site
Milad Hatemi has been charged with "corruption on earth" in connection with allegedly running a betting site

Instagram star Milad Hatemi has been indicted on the charge of “corruption on earth” in Iran, which carries the death sentence, related to an alleged online gambling operation.

The former influencer is one of several accused by the Islamic Republic of illegally profiting from gambling platforms and laundering the money overseas. He was arrested in Turkey following an Interpol red notice and handed over to Iran last March.

The indictment, shared by the Iranian judiciary’s media center on Thursday, accused Hatemi of “corruption on earth through widespread abuse and disruption of the country’s monetary and currency system, amounting at a minimum to more than half a million [US] dollars ($550,290), laundering the same amount, opening a gambling platform, and encouraging corruption.”

The case has been referred to Branch 15 of Tehran’s General and Revolutionary Court. Last year state TV aired a video that showed a detained Hatemi giving an apparently forced confession.

The charge against him is ill-defined in the Islamic Penal Code but has previously been used as a catch-all with which to convict alleged brothel-keepers, sellers of alcohol, and otherwise blameless regime critics.

Hatemi had lived in Turkey for some years with his wife and young child. At one point he had more than four million followers on Instagram and had published photos and videos online of their glamorous lifestyle, many featuring luxury cars.

He is one of at least nine Persian Instagram-famous individuals accused by the Islamic Republic in the past few years of running “illegal” betting sites.

They include the rapper Amir Tataloo, who was arrested in Turkey in January 2020. He was due to be extradited at the time, but no update on the case has been published since then.

In March this year, Branch 8 of Tehran Criminal Court issued a fresh summons for Tataloo as well as Donya Jahanbakht and Sasha Sobhani, both of whom are now understood to be based in London. Last year Sobhani publicly denied the charges and previously sought asylum in Spain, saying he feared for his life if the red notice against him was acted on.

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