- David Gritten
Two Iranian journalists who participated in covering the story of the death of the young Iranian-Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, during her arrest last September, were brought to trial before a revolutionary court in Tehran.
Niloufer Hamidi and Elaha Mohammadi were charged with “collaboration with the hostile US government” and “propaganda against the regime”.
Niloufer’s husband said her trial began in Tehran on Tuesday, a day after Eleheh Mohammadi’s trial began.
The women deny the accusations and insist they only did their job.
Iranian authorities have arrested at least 75 journalists since mass anti-government protests swept across the country following the death of Mahsa Amini, according to Reporters Without Borders. Seventeen of those, including journalists Hamidi and Mohammadi, are still in prison.
Amini died in a hospital in Tehran on September 16, three days after she was detained by the Guidance Police for allegedly wearing a headscarf “inappropriately.”
Witnesses said the 22-year-old Kurdish woman was beaten while in custody, but authorities blamed her death on a “sudden heart attack”.
Hamidi, 30, works for the reformist Al Sharq newspaper.
Hamidi filmed Amini’s father and grandmother embracing after receiving the news of her death, and posted the photo on Twitter with the comment: “The black mourning dress has become our national flag.”
Mohammadi, a 35-year-old reporter for the pro-reform newspaper Hum Mehan, published a story about Ms. Amini’s funeral in her hometown of Saqqez, a Kurdish town. She described how hundreds of mourners chanted “women, life, freedom”, a phrase that became one of the main slogans of the protests.
Security forces arrested Hamidi on September 22, while they arrested Mohammadi a week later.
Prosecutors refused to provide the families and lawyers with information about the charges against the two women, who are being held in harsh conditions in 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 Guard issued a statement, accusing Hamidi and Ms. Mohammadi of receiving CIA training to foment unrest in Iran.
Last month, the Iranian judiciary spokesman announced that the two women had been charged with “collaboration with the hostile US government, conspiracy and complicity to commit crimes against national security and propaganda against the regime”.
On Monday, Mohammadi’s lawyer confirmed that she attended the first session of her closed trial in the 15th Circuit of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which is presided over by the notorious judge, Abul-Qassem Salawati.
Lawyer Shahab El-Din Merlouhi told the newspaper “Home Mehan” that he is not authorized to speak.
He added, “We have large and serious official objections to the case. In our opinion, the Revolutionary Court has no jurisdiction in this case, and it must be heard in a competent court, in the presence of a jury, and in a public manner.”
“Her basic rights and clear legal requirements have been violated,” Al-Sharq newspaper reporter Milad Alawi wrote on Twitter, adding, “They mocked my concepts: legal court and fair trial!”
Hamidi’s separate trial began on Tuesday, according to her husband.
Muhammad Hossein Ajurlu wrote on Twitter: “Niloufer denied all the charges against her, and confirmed that she acted within the framework of the law as a journalist and did not commit any act against Iran’s security.”
He added that he was not allowed to be present during the two-hour session, and his wife’s lawyer was not given an opportunity to present a defence.