Trump, Biden officials condemn Iran regime's kidnapping, execution of reporter

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Officials in the Trump administration and Biden transition were united in their condemnation of the Iranian regime for its execution of a journalist whose work encouraged protests over the country’s economic decline.

“The U.S. strongly condemns Iran's unjust, barbaric execution of Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist kidnapped abroad by the regime,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a tweet on Monday. “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.”

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Ruhollah Zam, 47, had lived in Paris but was recently kidnapped by the Islamic regime. He was executed Saturday by hanging.

Zam had been convicted of “corruption on Earth.” He was accused of spreading the timings of 2017 economic protests, as well as information about officials, on the messaging act Telegram. The protests marked a major destabilizing force for the regime — which would go on to be plagued by protests in both 2018 and 2019.

According to the Associated Press, it is believed Zam was detained by the regime when he was on a trip to Iraq.

File – In this June 2, 2020 file photo, journalist Ruhollah Zam speaks during his trial at the Revolutionary Court, in Tehran, Iran.(Ali Shirband/Mizan News Agency via AP, File)

“Iran’s execution of Ruhollah Zam, a journalist who was denied due process and sentenced for exercising his universal rights, is another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime,” Jake Sullivan, President-elect Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said. “We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses.”

Biden’s pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, retweeted Sullivan, adding: “THIS.”

The Zam case may complicate efforts by the Biden administration and others to warm relations with Iran after the “maximum pressure” campaign waged by the Trump administration — which saw the U.S. withdraw from the 2015 Iran deal and re-impose sanctions on Tehran.

Biden has promised to try and re-enter the deal in a move that is supported by European countries — including Germany and France, which condemned the case as an “abduction from abroad” and a “barbarous and unacceptable act” respectively.

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Iran responded by summoning those country’s diplomats to Tehran.

The execution also raises fears it will chill the Iranian opposition, much of which is in exile in Europe and has faced a number of kidnappings and terror plots purportedly planned from Tehran.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in a statement, condemned the execution, and said it showed the need for sanctions against the regime.

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“Engulfed by deadly domestic and international crises, Iran's clerical regime carries out such criminal executions in a bid to create an atmosphere of terror, to intimidate its internal factions, and to thwart the eruption of popular uprisings,” the statement said.

“The prospects of another uprising, especially after the November 2019 uprising, represents an ever-present nightmare in so far as the religious fascism ruling Iran is concerned. But repression, torture, and execution cannot save this decadent and moribund regime from inevitable collapse,” it said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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