Ruhollah Zam’s website and a channel he created on the popular messaging app Telegram had spread the timings of the protests and embarrassing information about officials that directly challenged Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
He was based in Paris, Zam somehow returned to Iran and found himself detained by intelligence officials.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili announced Zam’s death sentence on Tuesday, saying he had been convicted of “corruption on Earth,” a charge often used in cases involving espionage or attempts to overthrow Iran’s government. It was not immediately clear when the sentence was handed down.
Zam is able to appeal his sentence, issued by a Revolutionary Court. The name of his public defender wasn’t immediately known.
Zam had run a website called AmadNews that posted embarrassing videos and information about Iranian officials. He highlighted his work on a channel on Telegram, the secure messaging app that remains incredibly popular among Iranians.
The initial spark for the 2017 protests was a sudden jump in food prices. Many believe that hard-line opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani instigated the first demonstrations in the conservative city of Mashhad in eastern Iran, trying to direct public anger at the president. But as protests spread from town to town, the backlash turned against the entire ruling class.