The Iranian Foreign Ministry has summoned the ambassador of Germany, the current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, and plans to summon the French envoy to Tehran later on Sunday, following criticism of the execution on Saturday of dissident Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, Fars news agency reported.
France described Zam's execution as "a serious blow to freedom of expression and press freedom in Iran".
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) December 13, 2020
In a message broadcast on Iran's state television last year, the IRGC claimed that its agents had captured Zam as part of a "complex operation using intelligence deception".
The IRGC described him as an important contributor to "the enemy's media network" which was conducting "psychological warfare" and alleged that he was connected to intelligence services in France, Israel and the US.
Zam had run a channel on the Telegram messaging app called Amadnews. His Telegram channel and website were used to spread news about anti-government protests in 2017, including their timing and location, as well as to share embarrassing information about leading Iranian officials.
He was sentenced to death in June after being convicted of "corruption on Earth", a charge often used in Iran in cases which involve espionage or threats to overthrow the Iranian government.
Dozens of people were killed during widespread protests in Iran during the 2017-18 New Year holidays.
Following the protests, authorities in Tehran blocked Iranians' access to Instagram and Telegram.
The diplomatic spat comes at a sensitive time for EU-Iran relations, with a major business conference aimed at boosting trade between Iran and the bloc set to begin on Monday.
Some social media users criticised the EU for putting business above human rights.
— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) December 11, 2020
Others called for more severe sanctions.
— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) December 13, 2020