TEHRAN – Iran on Sunday summoned the German and French envoys to Tehran after the European Union condemned the execution of an Iranian journalist whose work helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017, Iranian state media reported.
IRNA said an Iranian Foreign Ministry official summoned the ambassadors because of EU statements on the exiled reporter Ruhollah Zam, 47, who was hanged on Saturday.
Zam had been jailed in Iran after Iranian authorities seized him while he was traveling in neighboring Iraq last year. Zam had been living in exile in France before his kidnapping.
The German Foreign Ministry on Saturday expressed its shock about the circumstances of Zam’s sentencing and what it described as his “abduction from abroad" and forced return to Iran.
“This is a barbarous and unacceptable act,” the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement, which condemned the hanging as a “grave blow” to freedom of speech in Iran.
Iranian state television referred to Zam as “the leader of the riots” in announcing his execution by hanging early Saturday. 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 2017 protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
Those demonstrations, which began at the end of December 2017 and continued into 2018, 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 initial spark for the 2017 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.
Zam is one of three opposition figures apparently detained in intelligence operations abroad. In late July, a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family has said.
Iran also is believed to have seized the former head of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, a militant separatist group, while he was in Turkey. Iran has accused Farajollah Cha’ab of being behind a 2018 attack on a military parade that killed at least 25 people and wounded 70.