Iranian dissident and journalist Rouhollah Zam has been sentenced to death, months after he was apprehended by Iranian forces in mysterious circumstances.
Zam was found guilty of “corruption on earth,” a judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaeili told reporters Tuesday. The term does not specify a single crime, but it is a charge that the Iranian government sometimes uses in cases of alleged attempts to overthrow the government.
Zam ran Amad News, an online opposition news site which Tehran alleges incited violence during deadly 2017-2018 protests, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported last year.
Zam, who had been living in France, was arrested last year. The circumstances of how – and where – he was detained remain unclear.
Zam left France on October 11, according to the French foreign ministry. Three days later, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released a statement saying it had arrested Zam following an operation to “deceive foreign intelligence services” and “direct” Zam into Iran, state media reported.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) claimed that the journalist had been “illegally kidnapped and arrested.”
Iran has accused Zam of working with US, French and Israeli intelligence who provided him with “overt and covert” protection, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.
Following his arrest, Iranian authorities released a video of Zam in a car, wearing black-out goggles. The video also shows him sitting in front of a camera, making an “apology” for his actions.
Iran has been “one of the world’s most repressive countries for journalists for the past 40 years,” with at least 860 journalists and citizen journalists imprisoned or executed since 1979, according to non-profit Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
The country ranks 173 of 180 in RSF’s annual world press freedom ranking, three places lower than the previous year.
CNN’s Nada AlTaher reported from Abu Dubai and Ramin Mostaghim reported from Tehran.