New restrictions against Tehran target human rights abuses
US slaps sixth round of sanctions on Iran
The US Treasury designated three Iranian entities and six individuals on Wednesday for committing human rights abuses and censorship, in what is the sixth round of sanctions since President Donald Trump left the nuclear deal on May 8.
The department said the sanctions were implemented “in the wake of recent protests by the Iranian people and the regime’s subsequent brutal crackdown”. Washington has imposed the additional measures in a bid to increase economic and political pressure on the Iranian regime.
The three entities designated are semi-official paramilitary group Ansar-e Hezbollah, Evin Prison and Hanista Programming Group.
Ansar-e Hezbollah is identified as an “organisation supported by the Iranian regime that harasses and attacks the Iranian people” and has “been linked to acid attacks against women in the city of Isfahan” who had protested against the mandatory veil.
The statement said Ansar-e Hezbollah “has collaborated with the Basij to violently attack Iranian students with knives, tear gas, and electric batons.” The Basij is a paramilitary force that operates under Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), is designated by the US and has taken part in stifling street protests.
Three individuals operating under Ansar-e Hezbollah, Abdolhamid Mohtasham, Hossein Allahkaram and Hamid Ostad were designated. Mr Ostad was also “implicated in a mob attack against the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Mashhad” in 2016, the statement said.
The Treasury also designated Evin Prison, known for its notorious conditions and human rights abuses. The US government said prisoners held at Evin “are subject to brutal tactics inflicted by prison authorities, including sexual assaults, physical assaults, and electric shock”.
The Treasury also designated Hanista Programming Group for having “operated, or having directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the government of Iran”.
It is accused of “creating and distributing alternative versions of the popular messaging and social media application Telegram that facilitate the Iranian regime’s monitoring and tracking of Iranian and international users”.
Three more individuals were designated in the order. They are Abolhassan Firouzabadi, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi and Abdulali Ali Asgari. The first two “for having engaged in censorship or other activities”, and Mr Ali Asgari as the director of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), an entity that was designated in 2013, and now being accused of overseeing censorship.
US Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin said the government had focused the sanctions on human rights because “Iran not only exports terrorism and instability across the world, it routinely violates the rights of its own people”.
“The Iranian regime diverts national resources that should belong to the people to fund a massive and expensive censorship apparatus and suppress free speech,” he said.