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.”


Iraqis mourn expert on armed groups killed by unknown gunmen

Updated 26 min 45 sec ago

Iraqis mourn expert on armed groups killed by unknown gunmen

  • Gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on Hisham Al-Hashimi outside his home in the Zeyouneh area of Baghdad
  • Al-Hashimi was a well-connected security analyst

BAGHDAD: Iraqi mourners and relatives on Tuesday carried the body of a respected analyst shot and killed the previous night in Baghdad after receiving threats from Iran-backed militias. Many Iraqis expressed their shock over the slaying.
Hisham Al-Hashimi, 47, was gunned down on Monday night outside his home in Baghdad’s Zeyouneh neighborhood. His casket, draped in the Iraqi flag, was taken to his family home before being driven to the burial site.
Al-Hashimi, a leading expert on Daesh and other militant organization, was a regular fixture on Iraqi television and his expertise was often sought by government officials, journalists and researchers.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the killing, which comes weeks after he confided to close friends that he had received threats from militia groups. The slaying also coincides with a spate of rocket attacks targeting US interests that has been blamed on Iran-backed armed groups.
Authorities launched a raid last week in Baghdad, in which they detained 14 members of the powerful Kataib Hezbollah group, suspected of orchestrating the attacks. All but one detainees were released days later.
Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said Iraqi security forces would “spare no effort” in pursuing Al-Hashimi’s killers.

Hours after Al-Hashimi’s killing, authorities fired the top police officer for Zeyouneh and launched an investigation into his activities, according to an order from the prime minister’s office, seen by The Associated Press.
Condemnations from Iraqi officials poured in as shock reverberated across the country at the news of Al-Hashimi’s killing.

Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, said “authorities must find the perpetrators of this terror act and bring them to justice,” in a tweet on Tuesday.