US sanctions Iranian groups, citing ‘human rights abuses, censorship and other despicable acts’

On the sanctions list is paramilitary group Ansar-e-Hezbollah and Tehran’s Evin Prison, which is used to hold political prisoners

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 12:42am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 2:15am

The US Treasury placed several Iranian 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.

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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 violent attacks on student protesters.

The Treasury also listed Tehran’s Evin Prison, which holds political prisoners, saying people held there are subject to sexual assaults, physical attacks and electric shocks.

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.

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“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 US 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 decision on May 8 to withdraw from the Iran nuclear accord.