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Iran: Authorities accuse reporters who exposed Amini case as ‘foreign agents’

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Concern is growing for two imprisoned Iranian journalists who helped draw attention to Mahsa Amini’s death but who activists claim are now the targets of a smear campaign portraying them as spies.

During the first round of protests that broke out after Amini passed away following her arrest by Iran’s morality police, Niloufar Hamedi and Elahe Mohammadi were detained. The movement currently presents the government with its biggest obstacle since the revolution of 1979.

Hamedi covered the story from the hospital where the young woman spent her final three days in a coma before passing away for Iran’s Shargh newspaper. According to the journalist’s family, she was taken into custody on 20 September.

Reporter Mohammadi from the Ham Mihan newspaper travelled to Saqez, Amini’s hometown in the Kurdistan region of northwest Iran, to cover her funeral, which turned into one of the first protest actions. In custody since 29 September.

According to family members’ social media posts, both women are still being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.

They are among 51 journalists who have been imprisoned as part of a widespread crackdown since the protests began, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), based in New York. Only 14 have been confirmed to have been granted bail releases.

In a statement, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), based in New York, expressed its “deep concern” for the two women’s circumstances.

They are “being detained without access to internationally recognised standards of due process” and “could face years of imprisonment if convicted”, it said.

Iranian intelligence authorities last week accused the pair of being foreign agents whose status as journalists was “cover”.

According to a statement, the women participated in foreign training programmes and used their reporting to stir up opposition to Amini’s funeral protests. “The two were the first sources for fabricating this news for foreign media,” the statement said.

The CHRI said the statement was “filled with unsubstantiated claims” including a false allegation that Hamedi had published a photo of Amini on Twitter that went viral.

“This witch hunt is a cowardly attempt by the Islamic republic to pin its many failures on two women journalists, to deflect attention from the repressive policies that gave birth to the country’s organic and growing protest movement,” said CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi.

“The Islamic republic expects the world to turn its attention away from the deadly repression of the protests so that it can kill, maim, detain, and smear innocent people like these women with impunity,” Ghaemi added.

(With inputs from AFP)

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