Iran's President Rouhani defends execution of journalist Rouhollah Zam

Execution of regime critic who had a large online following has sparked international outrage against Tehran

epa08883625 A handout photo made available by the presidential office shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, 14 December 2020. Rouhani called on the new US administration to return to the commitments under the nuclear deal with his county and Iran will also abide by its commitments adding that sanctions must be lifted.  EPA/PRESIDENT OFFICE HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

Iran on Monday defended the execution of a prominent dissident journalist based in France and captured last year.

President Hassan Rouhani said the death sentence passed on Rouhollah Zam was carried out lawfully.

European countries "have the right to comment, but Zam was executed upon a court's ruling", Mr Rouhani said, noting that the judiciary was independent. "I think it's unlikely that this will hurt Iran-Europe relations."

Zam, who was based in Paris, was seized last year in circumstances that have not been officially disclosed. A news agency close to Iran's Revolutionary Guard said last week he had been captured in Iraq.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 30, 2020, Ruhollah Zam, a former opposition figure who had lived in exile in France and had been implicated in anti-government protests, speaks during his trial at Iran's Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Iranian state television said the "counter-revolutionary" Zam was hanged in the morning of December 12, 2020, after the supreme court upheld his sentence due to "the severity of the crimes" committed against the Islamic republic. / AFP / MIZAN NEWS AGENCY / ALI SHIRBAND

He was convicted of fomenting violence during anti-government protests in 2017. His Amadnews social media feed had more than one million followers.

France called Zam’s execution on Saturday “barbaric and unacceptable”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called the execution unjust and barbaric.

Mr Pompeo said in a tweet: "Zam exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime, which has killed or arrested more than 860 journalists in its 41-year reign of terror."

Iran's foreign ministry summoned envoys from France and Germany, current holder of the European Union's rotating presidency, to protest over criticism of the execution, Iranian media reported on Sunday.