Iran says journalists charged after BBC report on killing of protesters

Image source, Atash Shukrami

Comment on the photo, Nika Chakarami's family has rejected officials' claims that she killed herself

  • author, David Gretten
  • Role, BBC News

The Iranian judiciary has brought charges against “a number of journalists and activists” after publishing a BBC report alleging that men working in the security forces sexually assaulted and killed a 16-year-old female protester.

The judiciary-run Mizan news agency described the BBC's investigation into the 2022 death of Nika Chakarami as “spurious, incorrect and full of errors.”

The identity of the people who were summoned for allegedly “disturbing the psychological security of society” was not identified.

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

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

As for the second, Marzia Mahmoudi, she said: “Neither the charges nor the details are known.”

Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi on Wednesday rejected the findings of the BBC investigation and described them as a conspiracy by Iran's enemies, becoming the first official to comment publicly.

State media quoted the minister as telling reporters outside the cabinet meeting, “The enemies and their media have resorted to false and unreal reports to carry out psychological operations.”

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

Nika Chakarami 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 morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab “inappropriately.”

On September 20, 2022, Nika was photographed during a protest in Tehran setting her hijab on fire, while other protesters chanted “Death to the dictator” – a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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

Her family eventually found her body in the morgue more than a week later. They claimed she died from blows to the head, and rejected officials' claims that she killed herself by jumping from the roof of a building.

The BBC investigation, published on Monday, was based on what is understood to be a leaked internal document summarizing a hearing on the Nika case held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to the document, the teenager was arrested by members of a paramilitary group deployed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a secret team to monitor protests in Tehran that day.

The document details a series of events that allegedly occurred while Nika was tied up in the back of an unmarked freezer truck with three team members. These include:

The BBC report acknowledges the existence of many fake Iranian official documents in circulation, but says: “Extensive investigations indicate that the papers we have obtained chronicle the teenager's recent movements.”

The BBC also presented these allegations to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian government before publishing them, but they did not respond to them.

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