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Iran says journalists charged after BBC report on protester’s death

Image source, ATASH SHAKARAMI

Screenshot, Nika Shakarami’s family has rejected authorities’ claims that she committed suicide.

  • Author, David Gritten
  • Role, bbc news

Iran’s judiciary has brought charges against “several journalists and activists” after the publication of a BBC report alleging that men working for the security forces sexually assaulted and killed a 16-year-old protester.

The judiciary-run Mizan news agency described BBC Eye’s investigation into Nika Shakarami’s 2022 death as “false, incorrect and full of errors”.

He did not identify the people cited for allegedly “disturbing the psychological safety of society.”

But two Iranian journalists who had commented on the report online said prosecutors had opened cases against them.

One of them, Mohammad Parsi, wrote on Twitter/X that the Tehran prosecutor’s office had summoned him for publishing an “article about Nika Shakarami and the details of her murder.”

The second, Marzieh Mahmoodi, stated that “neither the charges nor the details are known.”

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi dismissed the BBC investigation’s findings as a plot by Iran’s enemies, becoming the first official to comment publicly.

“Enemies and their media have resorted to false and unrealistic reports to carry out psychological operations,” he told reporters outside a cabinet meeting, according to state media.

Vahidi claimed it was “an attempt to divert attention” from the current pro-Palestinian protests in the United States, as well as Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel last month.

There was no immediate comment from BBC News on the statements from Vahidi and the judiciary.

Nika Shakarami became a symbol of the “Women, Life, Freedom” protest movement that shook the Islamic Republic two years ago.

The protests erupted in response to the death in custody on September 16, 2022, of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the capital’s moral police for allegedly wearing the hijab “inappropriately.”

On September 20, 2022, Nika was filmed at a protest in Tehran setting her headscarf on fire, while other protesters chanted “death to the dictator”, in reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

She disappeared that night after telling a friend that security forces were after her.

His family finally found his body in a morgue more than a week later. They allege that he died from blows to the head and rejected officials’ claims that he had committed suicide by jumping from the roof of a building.

The BBC Eye investigation, published on Monday, was based on what is understood to be a leaked internal document summarizing a hearing into Nika’s case held by the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC).

According to the document, the teenager was detained by members of a paramilitary group that had been deployed by the IRGC as a covert team to monitor protests in Tehran that day.

The document details a series of events that allegedly happened while Nika was restrained in the back of an unmarked freezer van along with three crew members. These include:

  • One of the men abused her while he was sitting on her.
  • Despite being handcuffed and restrained, she fought back, kicking and cursing.
  • An admission that this caused the men to beat her to death with batons.
  • An IRGC officer ordered the men to dump his body in the street.

The BBC report acknowledges that there are numerous fake Iranian official documents in circulation, but says that “extensive investigations indicate that the documents we obtained do record the teenager’s last movements.”

The BBC also brought the allegations to the IRGC and the Iranian government before publication and they did not respond.