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The Farda Briefing: Journalists Who Broke Mahsa Amini Story Stand Trial Behind Closed Doors

Reporters Nilufar Hamedi (left) and Elahe Mohammadi helped break the story of Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody sparked outrage in Iran. (file photo)
Reporters Nilufar Hamedi (left) and Elahe Mohammadi helped break the story of Mahsa Amini, whose death in police custody sparked outrage in Iran. (file photo)

Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter. To subscribe, click here.

I'm RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Here's what I've been following during the past week and what I'm watching for in the days ahead.

The Big Issue

A revolutionary court in Iran this week began the trials of two female journalists who helped break the story of Mahsa Amini’s death.

Amini’s death in September soon after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly violating the country’s hijab law triggered months of nationwide protests against the clerical establishment.

Reporters Nilufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi helped expose the case of Amini to the world by reporting, respectively, from the hospital where she died and her funeral.

The women, who have been held in pretrial detention since September, face a number of charges that include "collaborating with the hostile government of America, conspiracy and collusion to commit crimes against national security, and propaganda against the establishment."

The trials are being held behind closed doors, despite widespread calls inside and outside Iran for them to be open to the public. The women have complained that they were allowed to meet their lawyers only last week.

Hamedi denied all charges against her as her trial began on May 30, her husband said. The 30-year-old said she "had performed her work as a journalist within the framework of the law and did not take any action against Iran's security," her husband, Mohammad Hossein Ajorlu, wrote on Twitter.

Mohammadi’s trial began a day earlier. Her lawyer, Shahabeddin Mirlohi, said the Tehran Revolutionary Court was not qualified to rule on the cases. Revolutionary courts mainly deal with prominent political cases and are seen to be less regulated and more hard-line in their judgments than ordinary courts.

Why It Matters: Hamedi and Mohammadi are being tried for simply doing their job.

Hamedi of the Shargh daily had reported from the Tehran hospital where Amini died from the injuries she allegedly suffered in custody.

Mohammadi of the Hammihan daily reported from Amini's funeral in her hometown of Saghez, where the first protests erupted.

Their cases have highlighted the Iranian authorities’ renewed crackdown on dissent in the wake of the antiestablishment protests.

What's Next: Rights groups and media watchdogs are closely watching the trial of Hamedi and Mohammadi, who have both been hailed for their reporting and honored by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Shargh editor-in-chief Mehdi Rahmanian expressed hope that the two will be acquitted and able to return to their jobs.

But the fact that the trials are being presided over by hard-line judge Abolqasem Salavati, who is known for handing out harsh sentences, is potentially bad news for the reporters.

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Tensions remain high following the deadly clashes between Iranian and Taliban border troops as tensions over water supplies boiled over. But while both Tehran and the Taliban are doubling down on their water rights, they are leaving the door open for a diplomatic resolution.

The Iranian government has submitted a draft bill to the parliament that calls for tougher measures against women who do not observe the Islamic dress code in public. But the proposed legislation has angered hard-liners who say the bill does not go far enough.

What We're Watching

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he would welcome full diplomatic relations with Egypt, during a May 29 meeting with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in Tehran.

Ties between Tehran and Cairo deteriorated sharply following the Islamic Revolution in 1979 and the ousting of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was granted asylum in Egypt where he later died. The two countries have maintained diplomatic contacts.

"We welcome the Omani Sultan's statement about Egypt's willingness to resume relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and we have no problem in this regard," Khamenei said, according to his official website.

Why It Matters: Khamenei’s comments come as Tehran seeks to improve its ties with regional powers.

In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia, longtime rivals, agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties. The surprise agreement was brokered by China.

According to reports, Iranian and Egyptian officials have held behind-closed-door meetings over improving relations since March.

That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.

Until next time,

Golnaz Esfandiari

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

About This Newsletter

The Farda Briefing

The Farda Briefing is an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter. Written by senior correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari and other reporters from Radio Farda.

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