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US sanctions Iran groups for ‘rights abuses’
May 31, 2018
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WASHINGTON: US Treasury placed several Iranian state groups on its sanctions blacklist on Wednesday, accusing them of serious human rights abuses and censorship.

In the latest of a series of actions meant to increase pressure on the Tehran regime, the Treasury department named the semi-official paramilitary group Ansar-e-Hezbollah and three of its leaders to its sanctions list.

The goal is to lock those who are blacklisted out of the global financial and commercial system.

Ansar-e-Hezbollah is “an organisation supported by the Iranian regime that harasses and attacks the Iranian people,” the Treasury said, citing its alleged role in acid attacks against women seen as improperly dressed in Isfahan, and other violent attacks on student protestors.

The Treasury also sanctioned Tehran’s Evin Prison, used to house political prisoners, saying people held there are subject to sexual assaults, physical assaults and electric shock.

Two Iranian government officials involved in censorship, including blocking the popular encrypted messaging app Telegram, and a government-linked tech unit, Hanista Programing Group, were also placed on the sanctions blacklist.

Hanista, the Treasury said, creates and distributes messaging apps meant to be alternatives to Telegram but which allow the government to monitor and track users’ phones.

“Treasury is taking action to hold the Iranian regime accountable for ongoing human rights abuses, censorship, and other despicable acts it commits against its own citizens,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.

Wednesday’s announcement added to a series of moves to increase political and economic pressure on Tehran after President Donald Trump’s May 8 decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord.

Meanwhile, French oil major Total has two months to seek exemption from US sanctions after Washington’s withdrawal from the international nuclear deal, Iran’s oil minister told state news agency SHANA on Wednesday.

The minister, Bijan Zanganeh, added that failure to secure an exemption would mean that China’s state-owned CNPC could take over Total’s stake in the South Pars gas project, lifting its own interest from 30 per cent to more than 80 per cent.

“Total has 60 days to negotiate with the US government,” Zanganeh said, adding that the French government could also lobby Washington.


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