12 and 13-year jail terms for journalists Elaheh Mohammadi and Niloofar Hamedi : RSF denounces the abusive sentences

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled and alarmed by the outrageous 12 and 13-year prison sentences that an Iranian revolutionary court has just passed on two women journalists at the end of sham trials. Both played leading roles in reporting Kurdish student Mahsa Amani’s death in police custody in September 2022.

After detaining the two journalists for the past 13 months, the 15th chamber of Tehran’s revolutionary court finally issued its sentences on 22 October: 12 years in prison for Ham Mihan reporter Elaheh Mohammadi and 13 years for Shargh Daily reporter Niloofar Hamedi.

The court found them guilty of all the charges brought against them. Mohammadi was sentenced to six years in prison for “collaborating with the hostile government of the United States,” five years for “conspiring and colluding to commit a crime against national security” and one year for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic,” for a total of 12 years. Hamedi was convicted on the same charges, although her prison sentences totalled 13 years.

Mohammadi’s newspaper, Ham Mihan, said the time they have spent in provisional detention could be deducted from the time they have to serve and their total sentences might be adjusted under article 27 of the Law on Islamic Sentences. Meanwhile, the two journalists have 20 days to appeal.

"These sentences are outrageous. A year's provisional detention did not satisfy the thirst for revenge of the Islamic Republic, which has punished these two courageous journalists very severely. Sentencing Elaheh Mohammadi to 12 years in prison and her colleague, Niloofar Hamedi, to 13 years, makes a mockery of the concept of justice. They are being punished for doing their job, which is to fulfill the public’s right to news and information. We call on the international community to take action to ensure that the two journalists are released immediately and unconditionally."

Jonathan Dagher
Head of RSF’s Middle East desk

Both journalists’ trials, which RSF had already condemned as a sham, were held in two sessions prior to the verdicts and sentencing, all of them presided by Abolghasem Salavati, a judge notorious for the severity of his sentences. Hamedi’s hearings were held on 29 May and 25 July, while Mohamamdi’s were held on 30 May and 26 July. Their lawyers were notified of these dates at the last minute, had only a few hours to examine the case files and meet their clients, and were not allowed to address the judge.

The two journalists denied all the charges at the two hearings. “I can say with pride that I have never had links with foreign governments and that my loyalty is to the people, because I regard myself as their mouthpiece,” Mohammadi told the judge in July, according to her husband, Parsaee.

Shortly before the verdict and sentencing, Hamedi’s husband, Mohamad Hosein Ajorloo, wished her a happy birthday on Instagram. “We don’t know how many more birthdays you will spend behind those walls,” he wrote. “But we will get through this and we will finally celebrate freedom.” Previously, on 22 July, he had called for “a fair and transparent public trial and for Niloofar and Elaheh’s immediate release.” A request that clearly fell on deaf ears.

Both journalists covered Mahsa Amini’s death

Hamedi was one of the first journalists to report that the student Mahsa Amini had been hospitalised following her arrest by the morality police – posting a photo of her grieving family at Tehran’s Karsa hospital, where she was in a coma. The next day, Mohammadi, was the only journalist to cover Amini’s funeral in Iran’s Kurdistan province.

On 22 September, the first anniversary of Hamedi’s arrest, her lawyer filed a request for her release on the grounds that she had been detained provisionally for longer than the legally permitted period, which is one year. Mohammadi’s lawyer filed a similar request on 30 September, one year after her arrest.

Ambiguous legal proceedings, arbitrary arrests, prolonged pretrial detention and draconian sentences are all used to ensnare journalists in an oppressive labyrinth designed to reduce them to silence. These latest convictions mean that all four of the women journalists currently imprisoned in Iran have been sentenced. The other two are Vida Rabbani and Narges Mohammadi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize two weeks ago.

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