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Iran: journalist sentenced to death for role in protests

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Students protest in Tehran’s Sharif University on Monday, January 13, 2020.

Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and activist whose online work helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, has been sentenced to death for his actions following what Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called a “grossly unfair” trial.

A Revolutionary Court “considered that the 13 charges [against Zam] were the equivalent of the charge of spreading ‘corruption on earth’ and therefore passed the death sentence,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said on June 30, according to the judiciary-affiliated Mizan Online news agency.

The charge is often levelled in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government.

It was not clear when the sentence was handed down.

Zam’s website, AmadNews, and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had informed people on the timing of the protests and published embarrassing information about Iranian officials.

The 2017 protests represented the biggest challenge to Iran since post-election mass unrest in 2009 and set the stage for similar revolts in November 2019. Thousands were detained by police in the protests, and 25 people were killed.

Zam had been living and working in exile in Paris before being lured into returning to Iran, where he was arrested in October 2019 under still unclear circumstances. French authorities have “strongly condemned” the move.

In a statement condemning Zam’s sentencing, RSF said, he was “kidnapped in Iraq” by members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and forcibly returned to Iran.

“After being illegally kidnapped and arrested, Rouhollah Zam has been tried in a grossly unfair manner and then given an inhuman and unacceptable sentence,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk.

Zam, whom the Paris-based media freedom watchdog described as a “very controversial figure both in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora,” appeared in televised confessions in recent months admitting his wrongdoings and offering an apology for his past activities.

He had previously denied allegations he incited violence but openly admitted that AmadNews’s mission was to take down the government.

Esmaili also announced on June 30 that a five-year sentence handed to Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah has been upheld.

Adelkhah, an anthropologist who often travelled to Iran for research, was detained in June 2019 and sentenced in the last month on charges relating to security.

Iran has rejected Paris’s repeated calls to release her. RFE/RL/AP, AFP, and IRNA

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