The trial of an Iranian journalist, arrested after covering the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, who sparked a large protest movement in Iran, opened Tuesday in Tehran. Niloufar Hamedi, 30, denied all charges against her. She told the court that she had "done her job as a journalist within the framework of the law and did not commit any act against Iran's security," her husband, Mohammad Hossein Ajorlou, said on Twitter.

The trial of Niloufar Hamedi, a journalist with the reformist daily Shargh, began a day after that of another journalist, Elaheh Mohammadi, 36. The two women were imprisoned for covering up the death on 16 September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd arrested in Tehran by the morality police for violating the Islamic Republic's dress code, including requiring women to wear the veil in public.

Postponed trial

The two defendants, who have never been released, are being tried separately and behind closed doors in Tehran. They face the death penalty after being charged on 8 November with "propaganda" against the Islamic Republic and conspiracy against national security. Niloufar Hamedi was arrested on 20 September after reporting from the hospital where Mahsa Amini spent three days in a coma before dying. Elaheh Mohammadi, who worked for the reformist newspaper Ham Miham, was arrested on 29 September after travelling to Saghez, the town of Mahsa Amini in Kurdistan province, to cover her funeral, which had led to a demonstration.

Niloufar Hamedi was brought before Judge Abolghasem Salavati, known for the severity of his verdicts in political trials, in Section 15 of Tehran's Revolutionary Court. According to the journalist's husband, the family was unable to attend the hearing while the lawyers "did not have the opportunity to present their case". The trial has been postponed to an unspecified date, he added.

"There was no time for the oral defense," Parto Borhanpour, Niloufar Hamedi's lawyer, told Shargh, adding, however, that the lawyers were able to present their objections and demands. The lawyers protested against "Niloufar Hamedi's lack of access to a lawyer during his detention" and demanded that the trial take place "publicly", she added.

'A judicial farce'

Several hundred people, including members of the security forces, were killed and thousands arrested, including dozens of journalists, during demonstrations in October and November before receding. Seven men were executed for their involvement in the movement.

Press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders called the trials a "judicial sham," noting that the two journalists were "among the first to draw public attention to Mahsa Amini's death." The absence of a meeting with their lawyers before the trial "confirms that we are witnessing a judicial farce" that "aims only to legitimize the violent repression of these two journalists," RSF added.

The two women were awarded in May, together with imprisoned Iranian dissident Narges Mohammadi, with the 2023 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.

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