The news that Zam, who lived for many years in self-imposed exile in France, had been sentenced to death was announced today, nearly five and a half months after the start of his trial.
“The court considered that the 13 charges [maintained against Zam] were the equivalent of the charge of ‘corruption on earth’ and therefore passed the death sentence,” justice system spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted as saying by Mizan Online, the Iranian justice system’s official website.
Kidnapped in Iraq by Revolutionary Guards in October 2019 and forcibly returned to Iran, Zam is a very controversial figure both in Iran and in the Iranian diaspora, partly because of his links with foreign intelligence agencies.
He was tried in a revolutionary court by Aboulghasem Salevati, a judge widely regarded as one of the worst “executioners” of Iranian journalists. RSF already expressed concern about the iniquitous nature of the trial and the possibility of a death sentence when it began on 10 February.
“After being illegally kidnapped and arrested, Rouhollah Zam has been tried in a grossly unfair manner and then given an inhuman and unacceptable sentence,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “We call on the Iranian judicial authorities to overturn his conviction as quickly as possible. This sentence must be condemned with particular force because Iran has repeatedly been criticized by the UN in the past for its arbitrary executions.”
The charge of “spreading corruption on earth” comes from the Koranic expression “mofsed-e-fel'arz” and implies that corruption pervades the defendant’s very soul and being. It is one of the most serious charges that can be brought before a revolutionary court in Iran.
Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019.