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Iran Lawmakers Warn IRGC Not To Use Forced Confessions Of 'Captured' Publicist

A screengrab from video shown on Iran state television showing Rouhollah Zam apologizing to the regime. October 14, 2019
A screengrab from video shown on Iran state television showing Rouhollah Zam apologizing to the regime. October 14, 2019

A prominent member of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) has expressed concern that Iranian intelligence officials might use a man arrested on charges of running an anti-regime social media platform to level incriminating accusations against innocent people.

In an interview with the IRGC-linked Fars news agency on Tuesday October 15, Ali Motahari, the outspoken representative for Tehran, warned the Iranian intelligence community against using forced confessions by a suspect to incriminate others.

Motahari was referring to the IRGC Intelligence Organization's announcement October 14 of the capture of Rouhollah Zam a resident of Paris, who allegedly ran Amad News, an anti-regime Telegram channel from abroad to disclose Iranian officials' mischief and corruption by offering a daily cocktail of genuine reports and utterly misinformed rumors.

It remains unclear where and how the IRGC arrested Zam, but a short film was released showing him apologizing to the regime.

In several interviews on foreign-based Persian speaking satellite and Internet based TV programs, Zam had claimed not to be connected to Amad News and its new version Seda-ye Mardom [People's Voice].

Motahari spiced up his warning by reminding the public of a recent revelation about Iranian intelligence organizations using forced confessions to mislead the people about who assassinated nuclear scientists in the 2010s.

In that case, also verified by reformist lawmaker Mahmud Sadeqi, over 50 Iranians who had nothing to do with the assassinations were jailed and tortured for a few years and one of them was executed before the regime released everyone with an apology. Maziar Ebrahim, one of the victims revealed the details to international media.

The video aired by the Iranian state TV on October 14, shows Zam blindfolded in a car, probably outside Iran, before showing him in an armchair calmly regretting his activities against the Islamic republic. He also advised everyone not to trust any foreign government. His body language, however, communicated no fear or shame.

Meanwhile, the video does not contain any information proving where he is, leading to speculations that he may still be in France. This comes while some hardliner Twitter accounts, including one with a picture of former Soviet Leader Stalin as his avatar broke the news about Zam's arrest on October 1, two weeks before the announcement by the Iranian government.

In a more recent development, the French Le Figaro reported October 15 that France's Interior Ministry has confirmed Zam went to Iraq. The paper says according to some sources, he was tricked by an agent that he could have an audience with prominent Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani and went to Najaf, Iraq. In such a case, it would be easy for IRGC agents to capture him and take him across the border to Iran.

Iran has still not said where and how its agents arrested Zam. The reports say "He was guided into Iran." Does this mean he was "abducted" in a foreign country and then airlifted to Iran?

In one of the latest "bits" of information IRGC Intelligence has given away about the case, Mohammad Tavalai, an IRGC official at the office of the Guards' commander in chief, said that the IRGC Intelligence arrested Zam in collaboration with the spy agency of a foreign country, but did not name that country.

One of Zam's "friends" told a London-based Persian TV that he talked with Zam the day before his arrest was announced. He and the man in a video posted on Twitter quote Zam's wife as having said that he was in Paris and "went to a meeting" before his arrest was announced by Iran.

Iranian TV has aired other forced "confessions" in similar cases either self-incriminating or accusing others and has used these "confessions" to frame often innocent individuals.

It is not only Motahari who is concerned about such confessions. Another lawmaker Hojjatollah Mirzai also warned the Iranian Intelligence community not to use Zam's statements for accusing or defaming other individuals or political groups.