LONDON: Iran has sentenced to death a journalist whose work helped to inspire nationwide protests in 2017, and is further suppressing female rights activists within the country’s notorious prison system.
From his exile in Paris, Ruhollah Zam ran a website called AmadNews which posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials. He also ran a channel on Telegram, the most popular messaging app in Iran, that spread information about upcoming protests and shared videos from the demonstrations.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced the journalist’s death sentence on Tuesday.
Zam was persuaded to return to Iran in October 2019, and was subsequently arrested. Following his detention, he appeared in televised confessions where he offered an apology for his past activities.
The journalist is the son of a reformist Shia cleric, Mohammad Ali Zam, who served in the Iranian government during the early 80s and openly denounced his son’s activities during the 2017 protests.
In addition to Zam’s death sentence, Tehran has recently increased its campaign against women’s rights activists in the country.
Tehran temporarily released thousands of prisoners to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak in the country’s crowded prison system, but the regime has been criticized by rights groups for denying release to women’s rights campaigners by levelling additional charges at them.
For example, Narges Mohammadi, one of Iran’s best-known women’s rights defenders, was jailed for 16 years in 2015 after she campaigned to abolish the death penalty.
Her family said that she was denied prison furlough and charged with “dancing in prison during the days of mourning to commemorate the murder of the Shia Imam Hussein” — a charge the family dismissed as absurd.
She could face an additional five years in prison and 74 lashes for the new charges.
Atena Daemi, 32, a women’s rights activist and anti-death penalty campaigner, was expected to be furloughed on July 4, but now faces additional charges that make her ineligible for release.
Held in the notorious Evin prison, she faces a further 25 months in prison for allegedly “disturbing order” by chanting anti-government slogans, a claim she denies.
Jasmin Ramsey, of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, said: “Women are on the frontlines of struggles for rights and equality in Iran, as shown by the multiple political prisoners who continue to speak out for the rights of others from inside jail cells.
“By going so far as to alter the judicial process with the hope of muzzling these prisoners under lengthy jail sentences, Iranian judicial and intelligence officials are revealing how desperate they are to prevent women from taking on more leadership roles.”
US-based journalist and activist Masih Alinejad said: “For years and years, we had the fear inside us. And now women are fearless. They want to be warriors and that scares the government.”