US targets Iranian prisons with sanctions in response to deadly crackdown

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The State Department on Thursday announced new sanctions against Iran in response to its bloody crackdown on protesters, saying it believes more than 1,000 people, some as young as 13, have been killed.

The U.S. announced it is pursuing sanctions against two Iranian prisons for gross human rights violations in which they say at least 7,000 demonstrators have been detained following mass protests in the country triggered by a steep rise in fuel prices last month.

“What we’ve seen with these recent protests, this is the worst political crisis the regime has faced in its 40 years,” said Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran.

The U.S. also announced that it is increasing the monetary reward for information leading to the capture of a senior Iranian security official wanted by U.S. authorities.

The sanctions target the Greater Tehran Penitentiary as well as the Gharchak Prison, Iran’s largest women’s prison and also a jail for many minority groups, Hook said.

In addition to both prisons being documented as having unbearable, unsanitary conditions and reports of torture and abuse, Hook singled out Gharchak as “an environment that enables rape and murder.”

“The United States calls for the immediate release of all protestors detained in prison as well as all the political prisoners currently held by the regime,” he said.

Hook also condemned the Iranian government amid reports of up to 100 protesters being killed in the southwest city of Mahshahr.

He described in graphic detail Iranian security forces attacking fleeing protestors with machine-gun fire, saying “the screams of protesters” could be heard in the pause of gunfire.

Hook said the State Department has received more than 32,000 communications documenting violence by Iranian security forces against protesters, and officials believe more than 1,000 people have been killed, including dozens as young as 13 and 14 years old.

The department has received reports of authorities refusing to hand over bodies until families agreed to pay for the price of the bullets used to kill them and agreeing to not hold public funerals.

Hook said they believe “many thousands” to have been wounded.

“It is clear there is bipartisan consensus that the regime’s treatment of the Iranian people is abhorrent and unacceptable,” he said. “We are unified here in the United States, and the international community, likewise, should be unified and support the Iranian people.”

Hook also announced that the State Department’s Rewards for Justice program is offering up to $15 million for information on the financial activities, networks and associates of Abdul Reza Shahlai, a Yemen-based, high-ranking member of the Quds Force, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Shahlai is accused of directing attacks against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, providing weapons and explosives to violent Shi’a groups, and planning the 2007 attack against U.S. forces in Karbala, Iraq, that killed five service members and wounded others.

Shahlai was also identified as the mastermind and financier behind a 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. The plot was disrupted with the arrest of the man hired to carry out the assassination.

The designation announced Thursday comes after the U.S. officials revealed the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy had seized a large cache of heavy weapons off the coast of Yemen believed to have come from Iran.

“We remain gravely concerned by his presence in Yemen,” Hook said, adding officials believe Shahlai was involved in delivering advanced weaponry to the Houthi rebels fighting in that country’s civil war.


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