Rouhollah Zam 'not told' of his execution in advance

Rouhollah killed four days after the Supreme Court upheld his death penalty

Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist who was captured in what Tehran calls an intelligence operation, speaks during his trial in Tehran, Iran June 2, 2020. Picture taken June 2, 2020. Mizan News Agency/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.

The late Iranian journalist Rouhollah Zam was not told of his execution date in advance of the event, according to a post on an Instagram account purportedly belonging to his father.

Rouhollah Zam was hanged on Saturday after Iran's supreme court upheld a death sentence passed in June over his role in protests during the winter of 2017-2018, among other charges.

At least 25 people were killed during the unrest in December 2017 and January 2018 that was sparked by economic hardship.

Mohammad Ali Zam, a cleric who served in high-ranking government positions in the 1980s, said he had met his son a day before his execution, which Rouhollah was not told had been confirmed.

"The person responsible for the case had insisted multiple times that no one should say anything about the confirmation of his execution," Mohammad wrote, recalling people crying during congregational prayers with Rouhollah that day.

He was killed four days after the supreme court upheld the sentence – a move that rights group Amnesty International said aimed at avoiding an international campaign to save the dissident journalist's life.

Rouhollah, who founded the anti-government website and Telegram channel AmadNews, was charged with 13 offences that fall under the vague umbrella of sowing “corruption on earth” – a capital crime in Iran.

AmadNews was shut down on Telegram after it “started to instruct subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police”, said Telegrams chief executive Pavel Durov.

Rouhollah quickly created another channel.

He was granted asylum in France, fleeing Iran after the 2009 presidential election protests. Rouhollah was then arrested and repatriated under unknown circumstances in October 2019.

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 him 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 said Rouhollah was kidnapped and forcibly returned to Iran.

In 2017, Mohammad wrote a letter criticising his son for crossing the “red line”, Iranian media reported at the time.

“Our red line is the supreme leader, but you passed the red line,” the letter said.

After his son's arrest, Mohammad claimed Rouhollah was not allowed to see family or lawyers for nine months and was permitted to meet only a court-appointed lawyer under the supervision of security personnel. Mohammad's claims were reported by Amnesty International.

The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices. Many believe that hardline opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in north-east Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president. But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.

Rouhollah is one of three opposition figures apparently detained after intelligence operations abroad. In late July, a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted while in the Gulf, his family said.

Iran is believed to have seized the former head of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, a militant separatist group, while he was in Turkey. Iran accuses Farajollah Cha’ab of being behind a 2018 attack on a military parade that killed at least 25 people and wounded 70.

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