Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday defended the execution of a Paris-based Iranian journalist whose death triggered widespread condemnation in France and around the world.
Iran hanged Ruhollah Zam on Saturday after a court found him guilty of “corruption on earth,” a vague but serious charge that often is used to punish alleged espionage or an attempted government overthrow.
European countries “have the right to comment, but Zam was executed upon a court’s ruling,” Reuters reports Rouhani told a televised news conference. “I think it’s unlikely that this will hurt Iran-Europe relations.”
Zam ran an opposition news site and Telegram channel with more than 1 million followers, which, according to The Associated Press, published embarrassing information about the regime as well as the locations of anti-government protests in 2017.
He was living in self-imposed exile in Paris, but for unclear reasons traveled to Iraq in 2019 where an Iranian news outlet said he was captured by the Revolutionary Guards and forcibly taken to neighboring Iran. Authorities released a video after his arrest showing a blindfolded Zam in a car apologizing for his actions.
In what Reporters Without Borders called a “grossly unfair” trial, Zam was sentenced to death in June, and last week a court rejected his appeal.
In protest of Zam’s killing, France and several European Union member states pulled their ambassadors from the Europe-Iran Business Forum scheduled to take place virtually this week. Iran responded to their criticism by summoning the envoys of France, where Zam had lived, and Germany, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
The execution also drew condemnation in the United States, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling it “barbaric.”
“The U.S. strongly condemns Iran’s unjust, barbaric execution of Ruhollah Zam,” Pompeo tweeted Tuesday. “Zam exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime, which has killed or arrested more than 860 journalists in its 41-year reign of terror.”
Iran is also holding Habib Chaab, a Swedish-based Iranian opposition figure who was reportedly abducted by an Iran-backed network while visiting Istanbul in October. Tehran has accused Chaab of orchestrating an attack on a military parade in the city of Ahwaz that killed 25 people in 2018.