Iran today executed a journalist named Ruhollah Zam for his role in triggering the nationwide economic protests in 2017. Zam, who was in exile for years, was captured in by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. He was sentenced to death by a court in June this year after convicting him of ‘corruption on Earth’ which is a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government. His trial was termed by the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) as ‘grossly unfair’.
Was accused of inciting violence on Telegram
According to reports, Zam had helped the protests by sharing the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy through his website Ahmad News and a channel that he had on Telegram. His website had over a million followers. He was accused of a number of activities including being a party to the destruction of property interfering in the country’s economic system, working with the US government, spying for French intelligence and spying for the intelligence service of a country in the region. His channel was shut down by Telegram after the Iranian government complained that it was spreading information on how to make gasoline bombs. However, the channel continued with a different name. Zam had denied the allegations of inciting violence on Telegram.
The official news website of the judiciary named Mizan claimed that Zam had committed criminal and corrupt acts against the security and livelihoods of the Iranian people through his website. “This individual committed criminal and corrupt acts against the security and livelihoods of the Iranian people through running the antagonist Ahmad News Telegram channel and espionage communication with elements linked with foreign services that are against the Iranian people’s security”, the website said.
2017 Green Movement protests
Mizan claimed that Zam had confessed that he had led the 2017 protests that led to a number of compatriots losing their lives due to the terrorist acts of mercenary elements linked with foreigners. He also confessed to being one of the founders of a council of 29 ‘regime change’ media outlets, the website claimed. Those demonstrations, which began at the end of 2017, represented the biggest challenge to Iran since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar mass unrest in November of last year. The protests began at the end of 2017 and reportedly set the stage for a similar mass unrest in November 2019. Around 5000 people detained and about 25 killed in the 2017 protests.
France crticised his death sentence
Reports claim that the grounds of Zam’s arrest are still not clear. He was based in Paris and was detained by intelligence officials after he returned to Iran. His death sentence was criticised by France as ‘a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran’. In an interview in July, Zam had reportedly said that he had lost around 30 kg weight since his arrest in October 2019. He told that after his arrest he met his father after nine years and his mother and sister after six years.