Iran sentences journalist to death, clamps down on jailed female activists

Ruhollah Zam ran a website called AmadNews which posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials. (AP Photo)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Iran sentences journalist to death, clamps down on jailed female activists

  • Tehran is keeping female rights activists in prison despite the dangers posed by coronavirus
  • Regime is revealing “how desperate they are to prevent women from taking on more leadership roles”

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.”


Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

An image grab taken from a video released on July 3, 2020, by the Turkish Defence Ministry shows Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar (C) greeting Libyan officials upon his arrival in Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2020

Jets hit Libya’s Al-Watiya Air Base where Turkey may build base

  • Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups

BENGHAZI: Warplanes struck overnight at an air base that was recently recaptured by Libya’s internationally recognized government from eastern forces with help from Turkey, a military source with the eastern forces and a resident nearby said.
The strikes were carried out by “unknown aircraft,” the military source with the Libyan National Army (LNA) of eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar said.
A resident at the nearby town of Zintan said explosions were heard from the direction of the base.
Al-Watiya’s recapture in May by the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli marked the start of a sudden collapse of the LNA’s 14-month assault to seize the capital and its retreat along the coast to the new frontlines.
Turkish support was vital to the GNA in turning back the LNA offensive with advanced air defenses and drone strikes that targeted Khalifa’s supply lines and troop buildups.
A Turkish source said last month that Turkey was in talks with the GNA to establish two bases in Libya, one of them at Watiya, the most important air base in western Libya.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar was in Tripoli for meetings with the GNA on Friday and Saturday and Akar swore to do all that was necessary to help it, a Turkish Defense Ministry statement said.
Last month, the US said Russia had sent at least 14 MiG29 and Su-24 warplanes to an LNA base via Syria, where their Russian airforce markings were removed.
Turkish involvement in Libya has also angered France and Greece and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has warned of new sanctions on Ankara.
The GNA and LNA are now mobilizing forces at the new frontlines between the cities of Misrata and Sirte.