Iran’s judiciary on Sunday announced lengthy jail sentences for two female journalists who were arrested after reporting on the death last year of Mahsa Amini, which sparked nationwide protests.
Elaheh Mohammadi, 36, and Niloufar Hamedi, 31, were both found guilty of collaboration with Iran’s arch enemy the United States, the judiciary’s Mizan Online website said.
In its ruling, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Mohammadi to six years in jail, and Hamedi was handed seven years in prison, said Mizan.
The pair were also each given five-year sentences for conspiring against state security and one for propaganda against the Islamic republic, the website said, adding that the sentences would be served concurrently.
Mohammadi, a reporter for Ham Mihan newspaper, and Hamedi, a photographer for Shargh newspaper, have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since September 2022. Their trials started in May.
Hamedi was arrested less than a week after Amini’s death when she went to the hospital where the young woman was being treated and posted a photo of the grieving family on social media.
Mohammadi was arrested after going to Amini’s hometown of Saqez, in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to cover her funeral which turned into a demonstration.
The verdicts against Hamedi and Mohammadi, who were tried separately, are subject to appeal, Mizan said. Their lawyer has yet to react to the rulings.
In August, Iranian media reported that authorities had questioned or arrested more than 90 journalists since the protests triggered by Amini’s death in different cities erupted across the country.
Elaheh’s sister, Elnaz, also a journalist, was arrested and kept in Evin prison for a week in February and given a three-year suspended sentence in September.
Alleged US ‘cooperation’
On the first day of her trial, Hamedi told the court she had worked “as a journalist within the framework of the law and had not committed any act against the security of Iran”, according to comments reported by her husband, Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou, on social media.
Their trials were held behind closed doors and criticised by their families and lawyers.
International organisations defending journalists, such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have also condemned the trials and demanded their release.
In August, the judiciary said their trials were not only linked to Amini’s death but also to their alleged cooperation with the United States, according to the NGO United for Iran based in California.
Tehran and Washington severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 Islamic Revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
The lawyer for the two journalists, Mohammad Ali Kamfirouzi, was detained in early January for more than three weeks before being released on bail.
During the months-long Amini protests, several hundred people including security forces were killed and thousands were arrested over their participation in the demonstrations.
Seven men were also hanged over their links with the “riots” – the term Iranian officials use to describe the protests.
The latest court ruling follows the sentencing of Amini’s lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, last week to one year in prison for propaganda against the state and speaking with foreign and local media about the case.
In February, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei agreed to pardon or commute the sentences of a “significant number” of convicts, although Mohammadi and Hamedi were not among those released.