The rapper Amir Tataloo, one of Iran’s most famous musicians, has been detained in Istanbul after an Interpol request from Tehran authorities.

Turkish police confirmed on Tuesday they detained Tataloo, real name Amirhossein Maghsoudloo, in Istanbul’s Fatih district because of an Interpol red notice flagging him as a wanted person.

On Instagram, Tataloo posted a photograph showing him in handcuffs, and another captioned: “They said the Iranian government wants me.”

An Iranian police spokesperson told the semi-official news agency Mehr that Tataloo had been arrested over drug-related charges. He is accused of “encouraging citizens, especially the youth, to use drugs”, a statement said.

Turkey said Tataloo was initially picked up for a visa violation and a deportation decision has not yet been made.

The underground artist’s music has at times been banned by Iran’s ministry of culture and Islamic guidance on immorality grounds, but he still has a fanbase of millions on social media, where his followers call themselves “Tatalees”.

The tattoo-covered musician has courted controversy for his mercurial politics. He rose to fame by criticising the Iranian government’s human rights record in songs and on social media before shifting to a conservative stance and encouraging fans to vote for hardliners in 2017’s presidential elections.

His best-known single, Nuclear Energy, released ahead of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, proclaimed Iran’s right to defend itself and was accompanied by a music video shot on a warship in the Persian Gulf, leading to speculation he had been co-opted by the Iranian establishment.

Tataloo has said he has no interest in politics and that his opinions are influenced by a friend in the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence branch.

The artist reportedly moved to Istanbul last year in order to further his career. According to posts on Instagram, he had been issued a UK visa and was preparing to travel to perform in London in February before he was detained.

Tataloo’s social media manager, known as Ronak, said the artist could be in danger if he was extradited to Iran. “If Amir is handed over to Iranian police, it is unclear what is going to happen,” she told the UK-based television channel Iran International.

A petition urging his release attracted 230,000 signatures within 24 hours.

“He is not a criminal, he’s a victim,” one Twitter user posted, tagging Interpol and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The artist has to date been jailed twice: briefly in 2013 for appearing on illegal foreign satellite channels, and for two months in 2016 on charges of corrupting the youth.

Interpol, the international body that coordinates police activity, can issue notices requesting a country to locate and provisionally detain an individual, but cannot compel their arrest or deportation.

Source » theguardian