The Supreme Court in Iran upheld the death sentence against journalist and political refugee Rouhollah Zam, who faces 13 charges that fall under claims of stirring "corruption on earth", Iranian state media reported on Tuesday.
“Corruption on earth” is a capital crime in Iran with a broad definition that encompasses anti-government comments and acts.
Mr Zam, who was granted asylum in France, was arrested under unknown circumstances in October 2019.
He fled to France after the 2009 presidential election protests in Iran and founded the Amad opposition news agency in 2015, which operated on Telegram among other social media platforms. He was charged with inciting violence during the deadly 2018-2019 Iranian anti-government protests, during which the government blocked Telegram.
The circumstances around Mr Zam’s return to Iran from self-imposed exile are not known. The French Foreign Ministry said he left France on October 11, 2019. It said it had no information about his arrest outside France.
Iran says it ran a “meticulous intelligence operation” to deceive foreign intelligence services and lure Mr Zam back into the country for prosecution.
“Zam had been ... promoting Irano-phobia, disseminating fake news, fomenting doubt among the young generation about religious beliefs, preparing the ground for acts of violence and terror, and provoking unrest inside the country,” state news agency Press TV reported.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Mr Zam was kidnapped and forcibly returned to Iran.
Iran ranks 173rd in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, going down three points from 2019.
“Iran has been one of the world’s most repressive countries for journalists for the past 40 years. State control of news and information is unrelenting and at least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists have been imprisoned or executed since 1979,” it said.