Iranian court upholds death sentence for dissident journalist | Middle East

Ruhollah Zam was convicted of fueling anti-government unrest in 2017 on social media.

Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam for fueling anti-government unrest in 2017 on social media, a justice spokesperson said.

“Yes, the Supreme Court … upheld the conviction handed down by the Revolutionary Court in this case,” spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on Tuesday at a press conference broadcast live on a judicial website.

Esmaeili said the court reviewed and approved Zam’s conviction “over a month ago”.

Zam was arrested in Iraq in October 2019. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said at the time that he was arrested following a “complicated operation”.

Zam, who was based in France, ran a news channel called Amad News in the Telegram messaging app which is very popular in Iran and still used by tens of millions of people despite being blocked by authorities.

Earlier this year, a revolutionary court found him guilty of “corruption on earth” which carries the death penalty.

In July, Zam participated in an interview with a state radio reporter, a move that observers outside Iran said was an example of a forced confession.

In the same month, Zam’s father, Iranian-based cleric Mohammadali Zam, wrote a letter to justice chief Ebrahim Raisi challenging his son’s conviction, saying it was “against Islamic justice”.

Zam has been accused of working with French and Israeli intelligence against Iran and of trying to destabilize Iran by inciting violence during the 2017 protests that erupted in dozens of cities across the country. Iran and claimed at least 30 victims.

In court, Zam dismissed most of the allegations against him, saying he was only engaged in “media work”. He denied having participated in the encouragement of violence, destruction of public property and economic disruption.

The 2017 protests were the largest since the 2009 Green Movement protests that rocked the country following the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The protests began after the sudden rise in food prices that sparked the first protests in Mashhad. But the protests quickly spread from city to city, and the initial backlash against President Hassan Rouhani’s government backfired against the establishment as a whole.

At the time, Zam’s Telegram channel frequently shared timed schedules for protests across Iran and detailed how they unfolded. He also regularly posted videos of the protests, in which slogans condemned Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

After numerous complaints from the Iranian government, Telegram shut down Amad News for inciting violence.

Iran has since seen its greatest mass unrest in November 2019, which erupted over economic problems and also turned violent, resulting in 230 deaths according to Iranian officials.

Additional reporting by Maziar Motamedi in Tehran, Iran.

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