Iran secretly hangs prominent journalist critical of Iranian regime

BY EDITOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

ISLAMABAD:     Iran, the self-claimed super Islamic power, proved on Saturday that is in fact the weakest and hollow state on planet earth. It is such a weak state that cannot even face criticism of a harmless journalist like Ruhollah Zam.

Perturbed by the criticism of Ruhollah Zam, a local journalist in Iran, authorities executed him yesterday on Saturday December 13, 2020.

Current Iranian regime hanged Ruhollah on Saturday in an attempt to silent sane voices in a country where curbs on journalists are well known in the world. Iranian authorities had arrested Ruhollah, a dissident journalist, a year after in Iraq and forcibly repatriated to face trial.

According to information gathered by different sources, Iranian authorities secretly hanged Ruhollah Zam, 47, early on Saturday morning.  

Iran is well known for secret hangings. Ruhollah’s hanging was latest in the series. Sources told Islamabad Telegraph that his family visited him the previous day, but prison and judicial authorities had not told them or him about the scheduled execution.

“Neither he, nor his family members were informed about his hanging,” Amnesty International also said following the execution.

“The authorities rushed to execute Ruhollah Zam in what we believe was a reprehensible bid to avoid an international campaign to save his life,” said Diana Eltahawy, Middle East deputy director for the rights group.

“His execution is a deadly blow to freedom of expression in Iran and shows the extent of the Iranian authorities’ brutal tactics to instil fear and deter dissent.”

International media organizations around the globe condemned the execution and called upon the United Nations to take action against Iran in this regards. The execution was also condemned by the press freedom groups Reporters without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Ruhollah, the son of a pro-reform Shia cleric, Zam had fled Iran in the wake of anti-government protests in 2009. He had claimed that he had been falsely accused of working with foreign intelligence services.

After fleeing from Iran he had been living in exile in Paris and ran a popular website, AmadNews, and had a social media channel on the messaging app Telegram with more than 1 million followers.

After protests broke out in Iran during the 2017, Ruhollah had the timings and other details of demonstrations, as well as embarrassing information about officials and direct challenges to Iran’s Shia theocracy which had turned Iranian regime against him.

The demonstrations, sparked by a sudden jump in food prices, were the biggest challenge to Iran’s government since the 2009 Green Movement protests and set the stage for similar mass unrest in November 2019.

According to Guardian, In October 2019, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said it had trapped Zam in a “complex operation using intelligence deception”. It did not say where the operation took place, but rights groups said he was in Iraq at the time.

Soon after his arrest was announced, Iranian state TV aired a video of Zam blindfolded in a car, then showed him apologizing for his actions, CPJ said.

His trial began in February this year and he pleaded not guilty but, 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.

On 8 December, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence. France condemned the ruling as a “serious attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Iran” and called on the country to respect its international human rights obligations.

During an interview in July, Zam said he had lost some 30kg since his arrest. His father said in a letter to the head of Iran’s judiciary that the journalist had been held without contact with his family or lawyers for nine months, Amnesty International said.

His father said Zam had only been allowed to meet his court-appointed lawyer in the presence of security officials.

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