Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Two female Iranian journalists have been found guilty of collaborating with the US and handed long prison sentences after covering the death of Mahsa Amini last year in police custody, which triggered months of protests against the regime.
Niloufar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, who have been in custody since last September, were convicted of “collaboration with the hostile US government”, “gathering and conspiring against national security”, and “propaganda against the Islamic republic”, the Iranian judiciary announced on Sunday.
Hamedi was sentenced to a total of 13 years which, under Iran’s judicial system can be reduced to seven years, while Mohammadi was handed 12 years, which can be reduced to six.
The two were tried in the Islamic Revolutionary Court, which handles high-profile security charges. They could still appeal.
The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022, after she was arrested for allegedly breaching hijab laws, triggered protests nationwide that lasted for months and cost hundreds of lives.
Hamedi, who wrote for pro-reform daily newspaper Shargh, had reported that Amini was in a coma and posted a photo of her parents embracing each other at the hospital. Mohammadi, working for Hammihan newspaper, covered Amini’s funeral in her Kurdish hometown of Saqqez, where the protests began.
The court rulings were based on “well-documented evidence” of the duo’s “conscious” collaboration with entities and individuals linked to the US government, according to the Mizan news agency, which is affiliated with the judiciary. Both newspapers have denied the charges.
Ahmad Zeidabadi, a pro-reform analyst, said the claims made by conservative media about the two women’s US links had merited a warning at worst.
“With the kind of things that are being treated as offences in this country, Iranians will have to confine themselves to national borders, and think twice about having links to anything that smells of being foreign. Otherwise, they’ll have to pay a heavy price,” he said on social media.
The two journalists will also be barred from political parties and groups, and from all social media activity; they face bans on working with news organisations for two years once they are released.
Since the protests that followed Amini’s death, some Iranian women have refused to wear the hijab in public. The Islamic republic has largely turned a blind eye to their presence in streets, shopping malls and restaurants. However, tensions have emerged between these women and religious conservatives.
Accounts have also emerged in recent weeks of individuals in private cars functioning as an unofficial “morality police”, arresting women without headscarves and taking them to the Vozara police station, where Amini was held.
Images of a teenage girl comatose in a Tehran hospital this month raised fears among Iranians of a fresh case resembling that of Amini. Armita Geravand has been in a coma since early October after collapsing on a metro train on the way to school. State media reported on Sunday that she was “brain dead”.
CCTV footage of the incident showed Geravand boarding the train with her friends, without a headscarf, before being dragged out unconscious seconds later. Hengaw, a human rights group based outside Iran, claimed Geravand was “physically attacked by authorities” for failing to cover her hair.
The Tehran metro’s managing director, Masoud Dorosti, told state news agency IRNA that Geravand had fainted as a result of a drop in blood pressure, hitting her head, and had not been physically attacked.