31 May 2023

Iranian journalists go on trial for reporting on Mahsa Amini's death

8:59 am on 31 May 2023
A woman looks at a picture of Iranian reporters Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi posted on twitter, in Nicosia on November 2, 2022. Concern is growing over the fate of the two Iranian reporters who helped bring the world’s attention to the death of Mahsa Amini but have been jailed for the past month and are now targeted by what activists see as a smear campaign to portray them as spies. (Photo by Christina ASSI / AFP)

File photo. Iranian reporters Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi seen in a Twitter image on a screen. The two journalists have gone on trial before a Revolutionary Court. Photo: AFP

Two Iranian female journalists who helped break the story of Mahsa Amini's death in custody in September have gone on trial before a Revolutionary Court.

Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi have been charged with "collaborating with the hostile US government" and "propaganda against the establishment".

Hamedi's husband said her trial opened in Tehran on Tuesday, a day after Mohammadi's began.

The women deny the charges and insist that they were just doing their jobs.

Iranian authorities have arrested at least 75 journalists since mass anti-government protests swept across the country in the wake of Amini's death, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Seventeen, including Hamedi and Mohammadi, are still in prison.

Amini died in hospital in Tehran on 16 September, three days after she was detained by morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab "improperly".

Witnesses said the 22-year-old Kurdish woman was beaten while in custody, but authorities blamed "sudden heart failure" for her death.

Hamedi, a 30-year-old journalist with the Sharq newspaper, photographed Amini's father and grandmother embracing. She posted it on Twitter with the caption: "The black dress of mourning has become our national flag."

Mohammadi, a 35-year-old reporter with the Hammihan newspaper, published a story about Amini's funeral in her hometown of Saqqez. She described how hundreds of mourners cried out "Woman, life, freedom", which became one of the main slogans of the protests.

Security forces arrested Hamedi on 22 September, while Mohammadi was detained a week later.

Prosecutors refused to provide their families and lawyers with information about the cases against the two women, who were kept in harsh conditions at Evin Prison and Qarchak Women's Prison.

But at the end of October, Iran's ministry of intelligence and the intelligence agency of the Revolutionary Guards issued a statement accusing Hamedi and Mohammadi of being trained by the US Central Intelligence Agency to foment unrest in Iran.

And last month, the judiciary's spokesman announced that they had been charged with "collaborating with the hostile government of America, conspiracy and collusion to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the establishment".

On Monday, Mohammadi's lawyer confirmed she had attended the first session of her closed-door trial at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which is presided over by the notorious judge Abolqasem Salavati.

Shahabeddin Mirlohi told Hammihan that he was not permitted to speak.

"We had significant and serious formal objections in the case," he added. "In our view, the Revolutionary Court does not have jurisdiction over this case, and it should be heard in a competent court with the presence of a jury and in an open manner."

Sharq journalist Milad Alavi tweeted that "her basic rights and clear legal requirements were violated", adding: "They ridiculed the concepts of 'court of law' and 'fair trial'!"

Hamedi's separate trial began on Tuesday, according to her husband.

"Niloufar denied all the charges against her and emphasised that she had acted within the framework of the law as a journalist, and had not taken any action against the security of Iran," Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou tweeted.

He added that he was not allowed to be present during the two-hour hearing and that his wife's lawyer was not given an opportunity to present a defence.


Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs