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Ebadi: 'Iran thought the media would not pay attention'

Shabnam von Hein
July 3, 2020

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ebadi on death sentence for Zam: "When the Iranian society and the world community are vigilant on a subject, those in power in Iran adjust their decision to avoid unpleasant consequences."

Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress/LaPresse/M. B. Touati

Deutsche Welle: Ruhollah Zam disappeared during a trip to Iraq, re-emerged shortly afterwards in Iran in handcuffs and was sentenced to death by a court. Do you believe that he will be executed before the eyes of the world?

Shirin Ebadi: Ruhollah Zam ran a news channel on the Messenger app Telegram from France. Zam posted a series of correct information, but also a series of false information. The crucial question now is whether the penalty for spreading false information should be the death penalty. If it is, shouldn't the head of Iranian Radio and Television also be executed? Under his leadership, far more false news is disseminated than Zam has ever published.

The death sentence in the case of Ruhollah Zam is a political judgment, not a legal one. He did not have a fair trial. The pronouncement of the sentence coincided with the meeting of the Security Council, where, at the request of the USA, the extension of the arms embargo on Iran was on the agenda. I believe that the Iranian authorities thought that the media worldwide were busy with this meeting and would not pay any attention to the death sentence against Zam. However, the media as well as the Iranian civil society reacted to this sentence and condemned it. 

Experience has shown that if the Iranian society and the world community are vigilant on an issue, those in power in Iran adjust their decision to avoid unpleasant consequences.

The protests against the death sentence for Ruhollah Zam inside and outside Iran are effective and can save Zam.

Ruhollah Zam was granted political asylum in France several years ago. The French government has condemned his death sentence. However, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry stated that France should not interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Can France help Ruhollah Zam?

Human rights apply universally. The Iranian government sees it as its right to raise the issue of human rights violations in Palestine or Saudi Arabia. But it is outraged when other countries in the world criticize the human rights violations in Iran.

I call on all countries of the world not to comply with the political demands of the Iranian government in such cases. Iran must stop taking its citizens hostage.

The judiciary in Iran repeatedly emphasizes its independence. Now there is a new head of justice who wants to stand up for more justice. How do you assess the new developments in the Iranian judiciary?

The head of the judiciary is elected by Iran's religious and political leader and is therefore accountable only to him. The justice system can only change if the power structures in Iran change.

Iran Teheran | Ali Chamenei
Iranian leader Ali Chamenei Image: Imago Images/Zuma Wire
Iran Teheran | Ruhollah Zam - Journalist
Ruhollah ZamImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Shirband