Iran on Tuesday sentenced a journalist to death whose online work helped inspire nationwide economic protests in 2017.
Ruhollah Zam returned to Iran under unclear circumstances and was subsequently arrested. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced Zam’s sentence on Tuesday.
Zam ran a website called AmadNews that posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials.
He had been living and working in exile in Paris before being convinced into returning to Iran, where he was arrested in October 2019.
Zam later appeared in televised confessions admitting his wrongdoings and offering an apology for his past activities.
Zam ran a channel on the messaging app Telegram that spread messages about upcoming protests in 2017 and shared videos from the demonstration.
That gained him widespread notoriety at the time, including from Iranian authorities wanting to end the protests.
Telegram shut down the channel over Iranian government complaints it spread information about how to make gasoline bombs. The channel later continued under a different name.
Zam is the son of Shi'ite cleric Mohammad Ali Zam, a reformist who once served in a government policy position in the early 1980s.
The cleric wrote a letter published by Iranian media in July 2017 in which he said he wouldn’t support his son over AmadNews’ reporting and messages on its Telegram channel.
The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden hike 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 eastern 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.
Soon, cries directly challenging Rouhani and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could be heard in online videos shared by Zam.
The 2017 protests reportedly saw some 5,000 people detained and 25 killed.