Iran executes journalist who fueled 2017 protests

Ruhollah Zam, 47, who was convicted of “corruption on Earth”, was hanged on Saturday morning.

Iran on Saturday executed an exiled journalist for his online work that helped inspire national economic protests in 2017, authorities said, just months after he returned to Tehran under mysterious circumstances.

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Iranian state television and state news agency IRNA said Ruhollah Zam, 47, was hanged early Saturday. The reports did not elaborate.

In June, a court sentenced Zam to death, saying he had been convicted of “corruption on Earth,” a charge often used in espionage cases or attempts to overthrow the Iranian government.

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Zam’s website, AmadNews, and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram, had spread the times of the protests and embarrassing information about officials directly challenging Iran’s Shiite theocracy.

Those demonstrations, which began in late 2017, posed the biggest challenge to Iran since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar massive unrest in November last year.

The initial spark of the 2017 protests was a sudden spike in food prices. Many believe that hardline opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran, trying to direct public anger against the president. But as the protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.

Soon, screams directly challenging Mr. Rouhani and even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, could be heard on online videos shared by Zam. The Zam channel also shared schedules and organizational details of the protests.

Telegram shut down the channel over complaints from the Iranian government that it released information on how to make gasoline pumps. The channel later continued under a different name. Zam, who has said he fled Iran after being falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services, denied inciting violence on Telegram at the time.

The 2017 protests reportedly saw some 5,000 people arrested and 25 killed.

The details of his arrest are still unclear. Although he was based in Paris, Zam somehow returned to Iran and found himself in detention by intelligence officials. He is one of several opposition figures in exile who have been returned to Iran in the last year.

France has previously criticized his death sentence as “a severe blow to freedom of speech and freedom of the press in Iran.”

A series of televised confessions aired earlier this year about his work.

During an interview in July, Zam said that he has lost about 30 kilograms (66 pounds) since his arrest in October 2019. After the arrest, he said he might meet his father after nine years and his mother and sister after about six. years.

Zam is the son of Shiite cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who once held a government policy post in the early 1980s. The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 saying that he would not support your child for the reports and messages from AmadNews in their Telegram channel.

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