Iran sentenced an exiled journalist to death for his internet work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests that erupted in late 2017 across the country, authorities said Tuesday.
Ruhollah Zam he had returned to the Islamic Republic under unclear circumstances and was arrested some time later.
The spokesperson for the judiciary, Gholamhossein Esmaili, announced Zam’s death sentence on Tuesday, saying he had been convicted of “Corruption on Earth”, a charge that is often used in cases of espionage or attempts to overthrow the government of Iran. It was not immediately clear when the sentence was handed down.
The journalist can appeal his sentence, issued by a Revolutionary Court. The name of his public defender was not immediately known.
Zam ran a site called AmadNews who posted videos and compromising information on Iranian officials. He was living and working in exile in Paris before being convinced to return to Iran, where he was detained in October 2019. He later appeared in televised confessions admitting his mistakes. and apologizing for his activities.
Among the activities considered illegal, managed a channel on the Telegram messaging application that spread messages about the protests in 2017 and shared videos of the demonstration. This gave him wide notoriety at the time, including among the Iranian authorities who wanted to end the mobilizations.
The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices. Many believe that opponents of the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani They instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in eastern Iran, trying to direct public anger towards the president. But as the protests spread from town to town, the reaction turned against the entire ruling class.
Soon, the screams directly challenging Rouhani and even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were heard in online videos shared by Zam. His channel also shared times and organizational details for the protests.
Telegram closed the channel due to complaints from the Iranian government that it disseminated information on how to make firebombs. The channel later continued under a different name.. Zam, who said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied having incited violence on Telegram at the time.
The 2017 protests left some 5,000 people detained and 25 dead.
Zam is the son of the Shiite cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who held a government position in the early 1980s. The religious wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 in which he said that he would not support his son for his work in AmadNews and messages from his Telegram channel.
Prison for an investigator
In a separate case, the spokesperson for the judiciary said an appeals court had upheld a previous prison sentence for Fariba Adelkhah, a prominent researcher with dual Franco-Iranian citizenship. Esmaili said he received two separate sentences, a five-year prison sentence and a one-year sentence on security charges. According to Iranian law, the longest sentence is that served by a convicted person and his time in prison will count towards the sentence.
Iranian officials revealed last July that Adelkhah had been arrested on espionage charges. Those charges were later dropped, but security-related charges remained against him.
Adelkhah and his fellow French investigator, Roland Marchal, were detained in Iran’s Evin prison. Authorities released Marchal in March in an apparent prisoner exchange for Iranian Jalal Ruhollahnejad, who had been detained in France.
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