Even for the ruthless Iranian regime, the abduction and execution of dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam were noteworthy for their viciousness and flagrant disregard for international norms.
Iran hanged the founder of the popular anti-regime website AmadNews on December 12, just days after an Iranian court upheld the death sentence he was given for the so-called crime of spreading corruption on earth.
But Mr. Zam’s real crime in the eyes of Iran’s authorities was challenging their rule and exposing their hypocrisy.
Living in exile as an asylee in France, Mr. Zam was reportedly abducted by the IRGC and brought back into Iran in 2019. He was put on trial in February 2020. He was accused of inciting the anti-government demonstrations that broke out in 2017, and his forced confession was broadcast on television. He was convicted in June.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly condemned Mr. Zam’s execution, calling it “unjust” and “barbaric.” In a tweet he noted that “Zam exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime which has killed or arrested more than 860 journalists in its 41 year reign of terror.” Mr. Pompeo added, “ The Iranian people deserve a free and diverse media, not censorship, arrests and the execution of journalists.”
The international community also expressed outrage over the killing of Ruhollah Zam. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “appalled” by the execution. She said Zam’s case was “emblematic of a pattern of forced confessions extracted under torture and broadcast on state media being used as a basis to convict people.”
Sherif Mansour of the Committee to Protect Journalists described his death as “monstrous and shameful.”
In a statement, the French Foreign Ministry called his execution “barbaric and unacceptable,” and France joined Germany, Austria and Italy in cancelling its participation in the Europe Iran Business Forum, which was to be held December 14.
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran and Venezuela Elliott Abrams pointed out that Zam’s execution followed the execution of champion Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari in September. “It is another reminder that we are dealing with a brutal and radical regime that does not hesitate to defy international law and norms to assert power and control,” Mr. Abrams said. “That is why it is so crucial that the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism never acquire the world’s most deadly weapon.”