France handed executed journalist Zam to Iran in swap deal, claims ex-intel officer

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Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam, who Iran executed in 2020 after being captured the previous year, was handed over to the Islamic Republic by France in exchange for a French spy, a former Iranian intelligence officer has claimed.

In an interview published on Tuesday with with Iran-based news site Rouydad 24, the former Iranian intelligence officer, Akbar Khoshkushk, claimed that France agreed to hand over Zam, who had been based in Paris, in exchange for a French spy masquerading as an ISIS member who had been captured by Iran-backed militants in Syria.

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Iran executed Zam in December 2020 after convicting him of inciting violence during anti-government protests in late 2017.

From Paris, Zam ran Amadnews, a channel on popular messaging app Telegram, which had over a million followers.

Iranian agents reportedly captured Zam during a visit to Iraq in 2019. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said at the time they had “trapped” Zam in a “complex operation using intelligence deception.”

Agents from the Directorate-General for External Security, France’s foreign intelligence agency, had accompanied Zam to Iraq on the pretext of protecting him, claimed Khoshkushk.

“The French agents took Zam to the French embassy in Baghdad. When Zam was at the French embassy in Baghdad, the French informed the Iranians what time he was scheduled to leave there,” helping the Iranian agents capture him, he claimed.

After Zam was taken to Iran, the French spy “was transferred from Damascus to Istanbul, where he was handed over to the French,” he added.

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