'Try them in open court': Iranian journalists launch new campaign

'Try them in open court': Iranian journalists launch new campaign
3 min read
02 June, 2023
Iranian journalists launched a campaign demanding that the judiciary handle cases of journalists arrested in relation to last year's protests in open courts.
Demonstration by the Iranian Women's Life Freedom Collective in front of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to protest the death sentences of political prisoners on 24 May 2023 in Rome, Italy. [Getty]

Immediately after the judiciary system announced that on 29 and 30 May two journalists would be tried in a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts, several Iranian journalists launched a campaign demanding that their colleagues be tried in open courts.

On 23 May, judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi in a news conference announced that Elahe Mohammadi and Niloofar Hamedi would be tried on 29 and 30 May, respectively, both accused of charges related to "espionage" and "collaborating with the enemy countries".

Last September, the two journalists were arrested by Iran's intelligence service for articles they wrote in regards to the death of Mahsa Amini in Islamic morality police custody and her burial in the northwestern city of Saqez.

Amini's death sparked nationwide anti-establishment demonstrations to which the security forces responded by arresting over 100 journalists and shooting dead more than 500 protestors.

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Following the judiciary system's announcement about the trial of Mohammadi and Hamedi, their family members and lawyers said that they were informed about the court dates through the media and not by any official subpoena.

The over eight-month pre-trail detention, days of solitary confinement, not having access to lawyers and the charges against the two journalists have provoked enormous outcry and anger among the Iranian journalists. 

On social media, they created the Farsi hashtag #دادگاه_علنی, meaning "open court", articulates a demand to the judiciary system to try Mohammadi and Hamedi in open courts. 

Journalists, political activists and dissidents in Iran are often tried in Islamic courts behind closed doors, and  occasionally in the absence of the accuseds' lawyer. 

Mohammadi's husband, Saeed Parsaei, told the Etemad daily that after months of "desperation" because of depriving the detained journalists of their fundamental rights, they launched this campaign.

"The detained journalists' families and their colleagues demanded an open court to understand the reason for their arrest and accusations," Etemad quoted Parsaei as saying.

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On Friday, the Syndicate of Tehran Province Journalists, the last remaining independent union for journalists in the Islamic republic, supported the same demand and, in a short statement, wrote: "Now the community of journalists is waiting for a just trial in open court to see the fate of their colleagues".

Meanwhile, Ahmad Zeidaabadi, a prominent Iranian journalist and analyst who had spent over seven years in prison, questioned the judiciary system on why they were "afraid of open courts" for journalists.

On Telegram, he wrote: "If the accusations against the journalists are based on strong evidence, why the judiciary system is afraid of open courts? And if they don't have any evidence, even trying the journalists behind closed doors would not assist [the authorities] convince the society [about the accusations]".