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Iranian dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi rearrested less than two weeks after release from prison

Iranian dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi was rearrested in northern Iran on Thursday, less than two weeks after his release from prison, according to his official social media channel.

The rapper had previously been detained for more than a year and held in solitary confinement for most of that time, on charges related to supporting the widespread protest movement in Iran last year.

Local sources and witnesses said that Salehi and his acquaintances were violently arrested while walking down a street in the city of Babol on Thursday. A group of armed men suddenly approached Salehi and his friends and, without identifying themselves, started attacking the group, witnesses said.

The plain-clothed men repeatedly struck the rapper with the ends of their rifles before blindfolding him and taking him into custody, they added.

Salehi, 32, had expressed support online and in his songs for protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died after being detained by the “morality police” and taken to a “re-education center,” allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.

When nationwide protests started in mid-September last year, Salehi called for Iranians to protest against the government.

Salehi, who is of Bakhtiari ethnic background, has long rapped about Iran’s multi-ethnic makeup, encouraging unity among Iranians of different backgrounds.

After his arrest in October 2022 at the height of the protests, he was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. But he was released on bail from a prison in Isfahan on November 18, after his attorney filed a successful appeal with Isfahan’s Revolutionary Court, according to Iran’s pro-reform news outlet Shargh Daily.

Shargh reported the attorney had filed a complaint citing Salehi’s treatment in detention, saying that authorities were not providing proper medical care for his client’s broken leg.

The supreme court also took into consideration the general amnesty order announced by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February when granting the appeal for Salehi’s case.

Salehi recently recorded a video in which he detailed his treatment in prison.

“I was tortured a lot during my detention,” Salehi says in the video, posted on social media. He described how he was repeatedly struck in the head and face, and claimed his fingers were broken as he tried to protect his face from blows.

“It’s not a pleasant thing to explain, but it continued for a long time,” he says.

The Iranian judiciary news agency Mizan said Thursday Salehi was arrested for making false claims publicly on social media without supporting documentation, and on charges of spreading lies and disturbing public opinion.

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