Iran has executed a once-exiled journalist over his online work that helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017.
Iranian state television and the state-run IRNA news agency said that Ruhollah Zam, 47, was hanged early Saturday morning. The reports did not elaborate.
In June, a court sentenced Zam to death, saying he had been convicted of “corruption on Earth,” a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government.
Zam’s website AmadNews and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
Those demonstrations, which began at the end of 2017, represented the biggest challenge to Iran’s rulers since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar mass unrest in November of last year.
The 2017 protests reportedly saw some 5,000 people detained and 25 killed. The initial spark for the protests was a sudden jump in food prices. Many believe that hard-line opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in northeastern 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.
Soon, cries directly challenging Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be heard in online videos shared by Zam. Zam’s channel also shared times and organizational details for the protests.
The details of his arrest still remain unclear. Though he was based in Paris, Zam somehow returned to Iran and found himself detained by intelligence officials. He’s one of several opposition figures in exile who have been returned to Iran over the last year.
France previously has criticized his death sentence as “a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran.”
Reporters Without Borders, a group that campaigns for press freedoms, said Zam’s hanging was a “new crime of Iranian justice.”