Iran has executed a once-exiled journalist over his online work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, authorities have said.
Iranian state television, the state-run IRNA news agency and the semi-official Nour news agency all said Ruhollah Zam was hanged early on Saturday morning.
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In June, a court sentenced Zam to death, saying he had been convicted of “corruption on Earth” – a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at the time said his trials were “grossly unfair”.
Zam, who was captured in 2019 after years in exile, was executed four days after the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against him that was earlier issued by a revolutionary court.
I knew #RuhollahZam through Facebook. A lot of journalists and activists knew him or had communicated with him at some point during his years in exile. His execution is as heartbreaking as it is a crime.
— Shahin Milani (@shahinmilani81) December 12, 2020
Zam’s website and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s government. His Amad News feed had more than a million followers.
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.
Zam was also accused of being party to the destruction of property, interfering in the country’s economic system, working with the United States government, spying for French intelligence, and “spying for the intelligence service of a country in the region”.
“This individual committed criminal and corrupt acts against the security and livelihoods of the Iranian people through running the antagonist Amad News Telegram channel and espionage communication with elements linked with foreign services that are against the Iranian people’s security,” wrote Mizan, the official news website of the judiciary.
According to Mizan, during his trials Zam confessed to leading the 2017 unrests which led to “a number of our compatriots losing their lives due to the terrorist acts of mercenary elements linked with foreigners” and he confessed to being one of the founders of a council of 29 “regime change” media outlets.
Authorities also accused Zam of being in direct contact with agents from the US National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services.
Additional reporting by Maziar Motamedi in Tehran, Iran.