'We will not back down': Family of Iranian rapper facing death sentence speak out against regime

Video report by George Hancorn and words by Mona Larijani

Toomaj Salehi, a 33-year-old Iranian rapper, has been sentenced to death, as announced by his lawyer, Amir Raessian, in an interview with Sharghdaily newspaper and shared on X.

Mr Salehi gained fame for his outspoken criticism of the Iranian regime in his music and his support for the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, which started following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody in September 2022.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Salehi's cousin, Azadeh Babadi, said: "He's very strong. In a situation like this he thinks of us, his family and his fans instead of being worried for himself."

Toomaj Salehi, 33, gained fame for his outspoken criticism of the Iranian regime. Credit: X

Responding to Mr Salehi's thoughts on the verdict, Ms Babadi replied: "I think he would say it's okay. I know what I stand for, and I'm prepared to face whatever consequences come my way.

"Don't worry about me. I'll stand strong until the very end.

"We have no hope with the Islamic Republic, but I beg the people outside of Iran to put pressure on their governments so maybe that way we can save Toomaj with international pressure!"

Mahsa Amini died while in police custody in September 2022. Credit: AP

Negin Niknaam, a close friend and social media admin of Mr Salehi, told ITV News about reports of him facing the death sentence: "It's baseless and solely on grounds of his conversations with fans and expressing his opinion in X and Instagram.

"He's being punished for speaking out," She continued.

"Toomaj has always been the voice of the voiceless in Iran through his music. His fans refer to him as the son of Iran, the lion of Iran. Following the announcement of his death sentence, they were left shocked and are now demanding his release."

The announcement of Mr Salehi's death sentence has sparked widespread outrage in Iran among his supporters as well as internationally.

In response, many people have wrote slogans and played his music as a form of protest.

The rapper's family hope leaders around the world can continue to put pressure on Iran.

Authorities in the country are yet to comment on Mr Salehi's lawyers' claims.

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