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US targets senior Iranian officials with new sanctions

Those sanctioned include Iran's interior and communications ministers.
A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran on Sept. 21, 2022, shows Iranian demonstrators taking to the streets of the capital Tehran during a protest for Mahsa Amini, days after she died in police custody.

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on seven senior Iranian leaders linked to the country’s violent suppression of nationwide protests and continued clampdown on internet access.

Those blacklisted by the Treasury Department include Iranian Communications Minister Eisa Zarepour, who it blamed for Iran’s digital crackdown, and Minister of the Interior Ahmad Vahidi, who has oversight of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF). The LEF are to blame for “at least dozens of casualties in the recent demonstrations against the morality police," the department said.

The United States also slapped sanctions on five other senior leaders in Iran’s security apparatus, including from its cyber police and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly are vital to guaranteeing individual liberty and dignity,” Under Secretary of the Treasury Brian Nelson said in a statement.

“The United States condemns the Iranian government’s internet shutdown and continued violent suppression of peaceful protest and will not hesitate to target those who direct and support such actions," Nelson said. 

The country has been convulsed by protests since the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman who died in the custody of Iran’s morality police three days after she was detained for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly.

Iranian security forces have cracked down hard on the protests, which are now in their third week. In a particularly violent episode, police on Oct. 2 reportedly confronted peaceful student protesters at Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University with tear gas, pellet guns, paintballs and rubber bullets.

The latest batch of Iran sanctions comes three days after President Joe Biden warned in a statement that his administration would be imposing further costs on those responsible for the violent crackdown. 

On Sept. 22, the Treasury Department sanctioned Iran’s morality police as well as other senior leaders of Iran’s security organizations that are accused of routinely using violence to suppress peaceful protesters.

To help counter government censorship of the current protests, the Biden administration on Sept. 23 authorized US technology firms to provide additional internet services in Iran.

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