Iran has sentenced an opposition journalist to death after he reported on the damage Tehran’s belligerent international positions brought to the nation’s economy, the Iranian state-controlled PressTV reported Tuesday.
Iranian journalist and activist Ruhollah Zam ran an opposition Telegram channel called AmadNews highlighting reporting on national economic hardship in late 2017 and early 2018. The reports triggered nationwide protests against the Islamic regime. Authorities, who wanted to quell the protests, accused Zam of using his channel to incite unrest and arrested him in October 2019.
On Tuesday, Iran’s Judiciary spokesman, Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili, announced that the court system had sentenced Zam to death after the judiciary “considered that the 13 charges [against Zam] were the equivalent of the charge of spreading ‘corruption on earth’ and therefore passed the death sentence.”
“Corruption on earth” is a charge Iran often levels in cases involving acts of espionage or efforts to overthrow the government, according to Agence France-Presse. An indictment released in February revealed that Zam was also charged with having “committed offenses against the country’s internal and external security” and “espionage for the French intelligence service,” PressTV reports.
Prior to his arrest last fall, Zam had been living in France in exile. According to the state-affiliated Tehran Times, the Intelligence Organization of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) lured Zam from France to Iran in October 2019, where he was arrested and imprisoned. The IRGC is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
At the time, the IRGC said that “the French intelligence service was behind Zam’s activities, which were also backed by the U.S. and Zionist regime’s spy services” and that Zam “was supported by those intelligence services to foment a psychological war on Iran in order to create divisions inside the country, especially targeting the younger generations.”
Zam had previously denied allegations he incited violence on his Telegram channel, but later “openly admitted that AmadNews’s mission was to take down the government,” Radio Farda, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Iranian branch reports.
According to Zam, his channel shared logistical information about the late 2017 anti-government protests and circulated videos from the demonstrations. Iranian authorities accuse him of using the messaging app to incite violence at the protests, such as instructing participants on “how to make petrol bombs.”
In December 2017, Telegram blocked AmadNews for allegedly inciting violence after Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, publicly complained about the channel, the Tehran Times reports.
“A Telegram channel is urging people to incite insecurity and use home-made bombs and arms. Isn’t it time to stop promoting violence?” Azari Jahromi wrote on his official Twitter account.
Responding to the minister’s message, Telegram founder Pavel Durov tweeted in return: “Calls for violence are prohibited by the Telegram rules. If confirmed, we’ll have to block such a channel, regardless of its size and political affiliation.”
Telegram then permanently shut down the AmadNews channel, which had amassed more than 1.3 million followers at the time.