The US State Department has rejected Iranian claims that two women journalists facing the death penalty in Iran for covering the events surrounding Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody had collaborated with the United States.
“We reject those charges. They are obviously not true,” spokesman Matthew Miller said on May 23, hours after the Iranian authorities announced that the trials of Elahe Mohammadi and Niloofar Hamidi are set to start next week.
Over the course of the months-long protests sparked by Amini’s death in September last year, Iranian authorities “have repeatedly violated Iranians’ human rights, punished them for executing their essential freedoms,” Miller said.
“This includes not just members of the Iranian public who have – who came forward to protest, but also journalists in the country,” he added.
Mohammadi will go on trial on May 29, followed by Hamidi's trial on May 30, judiciary spokesperson Masoud Setayeshi said on May 23.
The two face charges of collaborating with the "hostile" government of the United States, colluding to commit crimes against national security, and engaging in propaganda activities against the regime. The accusations could carry the death penalty.
Hamedi, a reporter for the Tehran-based Shargh Daily, was arrested in September after publishing a photograph of Amini's parents in Tehran’s Kasra Hospital, a few days after the young woman’s death.
Mohammadi of the daily newspaper HamMihan was taken into custody for her coverage of Amini's funeral in her hometown of Saqqez.
Human rights groups and media freedom watchdogs have condemned the arrest and prosecution of Hamedi and Mohammadi, as well as the Islamic Republic’s ongoing clampdown on dissent and the media.
More than 520 people were killed during demonstrations and over 20,000 others were unlawfully detained, including dozens of journalists, activists say. Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences to protesters.
“Sham trials and executions have been key components of the regime’s attempt to suppress any form of dissent,” Milley said.
“And we once again, as we have on a number of occasions, call on Iranian authorities to stop their arbitrary detentions, stop their sham trials, and stop denying the Iranian people the fundamental freedoms that they deserve,” he added.