Iranian authorities executed Ruhollah Zam, founder of the country’s most popular online news outlets, AmadNews, who had lived in exile in France, but was lured back to Iran.
Zam, 42, was abruptly executed on Saturday after being convicted of the Islamic crime of “spreading corruption on earth”, a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government.
Zam’s website AmadNews and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the 2017 protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
The killing of the Paris-based journalist was the latest in a series of executions meant to stir fear among those considering to peacefully oppose the clerical regime in Tehran. It has unleashed outrage by human rights organisations as well as ordinary Iranians.
But the circumstances around the execution of Zam is all the more notable because he was allegedly kidnapped or detained by Iranian officials while visiting Iraq in October 2019, with the possible collaboration of Iraqi officials.
His father, the relatively well-known reformist cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, said in a post to Instagram that the family had been given no notice of the execution and no chance to say goodbye.
Zam fled Iran after being arrested in 2009 for taking part in widespread anti-government protests, launching AmadNews in 2015.
Occasionally, AmadNews reported details of disputes between top-ranking officials within the leadership, raising suspicions that it was being used by regime insiders as a conduit for their factional wars.
In July 2017, it published a classified internal document suggesting the Revolutionary Guard was behind a 2015 cyberattack that led to power outages in Turkey.
Unanswered questions remain about Zam’s 2019 trip to Iraq, where he may have been lured by Iranian officials who managed to bring him to Tehran. He was sentenced to death in June, a ruling upheld by an Iranian high court on December 08.
Amnesty International described his trial as “unfair” and based on forced confessions.
“After being illegally kidnapped and arrested, RouhollahZam has been tried in a grossly unfair manner and then given an inhuman and unacceptable sentence,” Reza Moini, of Reporters Without Borders, said at the time of the sentencing.
Iranian state television has occasionally aired heavily edited snippets from his confessions on state television. On December 09 it aired a segment in which Zam purported admit that he had been paid by the government of Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran.
Zam’s father said his son had been convinced to make confessions to facilitate a prisoner swap. (Source: Independent UK)