A significant number of individuals related to the "network" founded by a Paris-based dissident have already been identified in Iran, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) spokesman, Ramezan Sharif has claimed.
Rouhollah Zam, 46, is the founder of AMAD (Persian acronym for Awareness, Struggle, And Democracy) news, later renamed as Seda-ye Mardom (Voice of the People) that disseminated much sensitive information on corruption in the Islamic Republic.
IRGC announced October 13 that Zam was captured by its intelligence organization in a deception operation. Later, his wife said that Zam was tricked to travel to Iraq, where most probably IRGC was able to kidnap him.
Describing the operation as "extremely complicated" the statement claimed that Zam was "led" by the French intelligence service and was supported by the U.S., Israeli and other spy agencies.
Reacting to the critics who say the IRGC might use Zam's "confessions" for its political ends, Sharif noted on Wednesday, October 23, "Zam's confessions are not much needed since the IRGC has already captured many of his contacts inside the country."
Earlier, Tehran's outspoken representative to Majles (parliament), Ali Motahari, had expressed concern that Iranian intelligence officials might use Zam to settle scores and level incriminating accusations against innocent people.
Furthermore, in an interview with the IRGC-linked Fars news agency on Tuesday, October 15, Motahari warned the Iranian intelligence community against using "forced confessions" by a suspect to incriminate others.
Motahari's warning reflects concerns over comments recently expressed by the media and figures close to the IRGC, insisting that capturing or kidnapping Zam is not essential per se. What is more important is "discovering" the local network that used to feed information to the exiled journalist.
Close allies of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani denied on October 20 that intelligence agents had detained several suspects connected to his administration for leaking state secrets to a dissident website outside Iran.
Immediately after the news of Zam’s arrest, conservative critics of Rouhani took to social media with a barrage of speculations, accusing the president's close associates of being Zam’s informers.
However, the head of the presidential guard and security, Alireza Khan Karami, insisted that, so far, nobody related to Rouhani's office had been detained for cooperating with AmadNews and Ruhollah Zam.
In addition to people related to Rouhani and his administration, individuals outside the government have also been accused of being Zam's "informers."
In 2016, the IRGC accused Mohammad Hossein Rostami, the former director of the Ammariyoun website, of having ties to AmadNews. He was charged with espionage in favor of Israel and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
In a video produced by the IRGC and aired by the state-controlled TV network, Rostami was accused of receiving money and relaying information about the presence of Iranian forces in Syria.
In two audiotapes circulated by close allies of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rostami categorically denied receiving any money.
Furthermore, Rostami insisted he had fallen victim to the "vengeance" of the head of the IRGC Intelligence Organization, mid-ranking cleric Hossein Taeb.
"Since I had information about Taeb's corruption related to financial and security affairs, he set the scene for my arrest," Rostami said, adding that Taeb was on the payroll of the Israelis for anti-Iran espionage.
Most cases against Taeb presented by Rostami had also been circulated by another individual close to the Ammariyoun site, Reza Golpour.
Facing charges similar to Rostami, Golpour has also been sentenced to 10 years in prison for spying on behalf of Israel.