Court of Appeal Upholds Lengthy Sentences for Two Female Journalists

The Tehran Court of Appeal has upheld the sentences of Saeedeh Shafiee and Nasim Sultan Beigi, two female journalists.

Both journalists have been sentenced to three years and six months for their alleged involvement in “assembly and collusion against national security” and an additional seven months and sixteen days for “propaganda against the regime.”

Under this verdict, they will not be eligible for amnesty as outlined in the “pardon and commutation” directive issued in February 2023.

In response to the Court of Appeal’s decision, Sultan Beigi expressed her disappointment, stating, “Only 14 days have been shaved off the original three-year, seven-month prison term for the assembly and collusion charge. This verdict serves as a stark illustration of a harsh punishment. Perhaps it would have been more fitting for the court to uphold the initial sentence.”

It is worth highlighting that the third defendant in this case, Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki, was acquitted of all charges during the initial court proceedings.

Remarkably, the trial took a disconcerting turn during the initial court session when the judge introduced statements from the defendant’s social media accounts that were unrelated to the charges. These statements involved critiques of their perspectives on compulsory hijab, indicating the real motive behind this punishment.

Two Female Journalists Receive Lengthy Sentences

In a concerning trend of surging convictions against journalists, two female journalists, Saeedeh Shafiee and Nasim Sultan Beigi, have been handed sentences totaling over eight years by the Tehran Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Iman Afshari.

Shafiee and Sultan Beigi each received three years and seven months for “assembly and collusion against national security” and eight months for “propaganda against the regime.” Furthermore, they face a two-year ban on joining civil and political groups and are subject to a travel ban.
Their co-defendant, Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki, was acquitted of all charges.

During the court session held on July 3, 2023, the trial took an alarming turn as the judge introduced statements from the defendants’ social media accounts unrelated to the charges, criticizing their opinions on compulsory Hijab, causing further distress.

The case has drawn international attention, with Human Rights Watch expressing deep concerns about the charges brought against these journalists for expressing their opinions and practicing their profession.



Three Female Journalists Summoned to Present Final Defense

Three journalists Saeedeh Shafiee, Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki, and Nasim Sultan Beigi, have been summoned to present their final defense at the Evin courthouse in Tehran.

The journalists were notified separately on April 24th to appear at the Evin courthouse within five days to present their final defense and closing arguments. They are accused of “propaganda against the regime,” with their various writings cited as evidence.

Nasim Sultan Beigi, a journalist and former student activist, was arrested by IRGC intelligence agents at the airport while leaving the country on January 11, 2023, and taken to Evin prison. She was temporarily released on February 6th of the same year, pending the conclusion of legal proceedings.

Saeedeh Shafiee, a journalist and writer, was arrested by security forces in Tehran on January 22, 2023. She was temporarily released after posting a bail of 500 million tomans, pending the conclusion of legal proceedings.

Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki, who has worked with ILNA, ISKA, Chalcheragh, and Anna news agencies, was arrested by security forces in Tehran on January 22, 2023. She was transferred to the IRGC Intelligence Detention Center, known as Section Two, before being moved to Evin prison. This journalist suffers from migraines and was denied access to her medication during detention. She was finally released from Evin prison in mid-February 2023.

At the time of their release, it was widely assumed that they, along with many other imprisoned protestors, had been granted amnesty under the “pardon and commutation” directive, which was supported by statements made by judicial officials. However, it has since come to light that this assumption was incorrect, and they are still facing ongoing legal proceedings, as evidenced by the summonses they have received.

Report on Mass Release of Prisoners in the Past 24 Hours

The mass releases of prisoners continued in the past 24 hours, as several prisoners of conscience were released from different prisons across the country.

Of these freed prisoners, the most known prisoners are:

  1. Documentary filmmaker Mojgan Ilanlu from Evin Prison
  2. Nazanin Mohammadnejad, a student at Allameh Tabataba’i University, from Evin Prison
  3. Political prisoner Bahareh Soleimani from Evin Prison
  4. Journalist Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki from Evin Prison
  5. Civil rights activist Monireh Arabshahi from Kachooie Prison
  6. Civil rights activist Yasaman Aryani from Kachooie Prison
  7. Soheil Yadollahi from Bojnurd Prison
  8. Saeed Allahverdi, arrested at recent protests, from Adel-Abad Prison, Shiraz
  9. Political prisoner Reza Mohammad Hosseini from Rajai Shahr Prison
  10. Political prisoner Reza Khandan Mahabadi from Rajai Shahr Prison
  11. Political prisoner Peyman Pourdad from Rajai Shahr Prison
  12. Political prisoner Mohammad Turkmani from Rajai Shahr Prison
  13. Akbar Azadifar, arrested at recent protests, from Kuhdasht Prison
  14. Beniamin Moghaddasi, a student at the University of Tehran

Moreover, following the approval to “pardon and commute” the sentence of some prisoners, the legal cases against Hadi Sepehri, arrested at recent protests, Mojtaba Esmaili (Nima), a member of the Society of Students Against Poverty, and Anis Mohammadi were closed.

Also, Baha’i citizens Soroush Agahi, Peyman Ma’anavi, Parvan Ma’anavi, Jamileh Pakroo, Elham Salmanzadeh, Kianoosh Salmanzadeh, Neda Shabani and Payam Shabani, who were serving their sentences outside the prison with electronic tags, were set free and the restrictions were removed.

Details of these prison releases are still unknown. They are, however, likely released under recent approval to “pardon and commute” the sentence of some prisoners.

Earlier, the head of the Judiciary proposed to pardon or commute the sentences of some prisoners as an enactment of Article 110, paragraph 11 of the constitution, which was approved by Ali Khamenei under some conditions which the legal case should meet. Judicial authorities have not yet provided statistics about the number of pardoned prisoners.

Journalist Saeedeh Shafiee Arrested

On January 22, security forces arrested journalist Saeedeh Shafiee at her home in Tehran and took her to an undisclosed location.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, on January 22, 2023, writer and journalist Saeedeh Shafiee was arrested.

Breaking this news, Shafiee’s husband, Hassan Homayoun stated: “My wife was arrested at our home, we are deeply concerned about her health condition.”
The reason for Shafiee’s arrest, her whereabouts, and the security institution responsible for her arrest are still unknown.
On the same day, another journalist Mehrnoosh Zarei Hanzaki was also arrested in Tehran and detained in Evin prison.

According to data collected by HRANA, at least 79 journalists and media practitioners have been arrested since the beginning of nationwide protests on September 17.


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