Tehran, Iran – Two female journalists in Iran have received preliminary prison sentences for national security charges over cases linked with the Mahsa Amini protests.
The journalists, Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohammadi, were arrested in September 2022, days after protests broke out across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Amini in police custody. Their trials began in late May.
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The official news website of the Iranian judiciary said on Sunday that Hamedi and Mohammadi received a total of 13 years and 12 years in prison, respectively, but they will not have to serve the full sentences.
Hamedi’s preliminary sentence is seven years in prison for “cooperating with the hostile government of the United States”, and Mohammadi has received six years for the same offence.
They received five years in prison each for the charge of “collusion to commit crimes against the country’s security” and a one-year sentence for “propaganda against the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
Moreover, Hamedi was sentenced to a two-year ban on membership in political parties or groups, being active on social media, or working in media.
“In the cases of both aforementioned individuals, there is proven evidence of links with some entities and individuals linked with the US government, which was done knowingly and in following anti-security policies,” the judiciary website said.
The punishments could potentially be reduced, according to the website. The preliminary sentences can be appealed within 20 days in a Tehran court.
If the sentences are confirmed as they are, the two women will only have to serve their longest sentence, however – seven years for Hamedi and six years for Mohammadi.
‘Hybrid wars and soft overthrow’
Hamedi and Mohammadi worked for reformist newspapers Sharq and Hammihan, respectively. Hamedi had published a viral image on social media of Amini’s parents embracing and crying at the hospital in Tehran where she died, while Mohammadi had travelled to Amini’s hometown of Saqqez to report on her funeral.
In October 2022, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) released a rare joint statement that blamed the United States as the main culprit behind the country’s months-long protests, backing an assertion by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
It also said the two journalists were trained in all-paid courses held by the US in many foreign countries to teach “hybrid wars and soft overthrow” of the Iranian establishment, and “played the role of being the first sources to manufacture news for foreign media” on developments that led to the unrest.
The families of the journalists and the newspapers that employed them have denied the charges, saying they were only doing their jobs.
Hamedi’s husband, Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou, on Sunday took to X, formerly Twitter, to celebrate her 31st birthday, the second she is marking in prison.
“We know that together, we will overcome all the difficulties and celebrate freedom,” he wrote in a message to his wife.
Along with human rights activist Narges Mohammadi – who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this month – the two journalists were named as recipients of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize in May.