New US sanctions target Iran for human rights abuses, censorship

New US sanctions target Iran for human rights abuses, censorship
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The Treasury Department on Wednesday targeted several Iranian nationals, organizations and government officials with financial sanctions over charges of human rights abuses and censorship.

The listed persons and entities will be blocked from the U.S. financial system. Individuals and companies who do business with the targeted Iranians could face sanctions from Treasury as well.

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The latest set of Treasury sanctions against Iranian officials comes in response to Tehran's crackdown on protests against the government and escalating tensions over President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE’s removal of the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal struck by former President Obama.

“Iran not only exports terrorism and instability across the world, it routinely violates the rights of its own people,” Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinHuawei CEO: Daughter's arrest was 'politically motivated' Top Chinese official heading to Washington for trade talks The Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration MORE said in a statement.

“The Iranian regime diverts national resources that should belong to the people to fund a massive and expensive censorship apparatus and suppress free speech.”

Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which administers sanctions, targeted a government-aligned Hezbollah group and several of its key officials for its violent suppression of anti-government student protests.

OFAC targeted the organization Ansar-e Hezbollah and its co-founders, Abdolhamid Mohtasham and Hossein Allahkaram, for “violently [attacking] Iranian students with knives, tear gas, and electric batons” and orchestrating acid attacks against women. The agency also targeted Hamid Ostad, who founded a branch of Ansar-e Hezbollah.

Iran’s Evin Prison is also listed in the new sanctions from OFAC. The Tehran prison houses scores of political prisoners subjected to torture and abuse from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Treasury also penalized several Iranian officials and groups involved with censoring and monitoring the country’s citizens. OFAC targeted Hanista Programing Group for distributing a doctored version of the messaging app Telegram that enables the Iranian government to spy on citizens.

OFAC also targeted Iranian government censorship officials Abolhassan Firouzabadi and Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, along with Abdulali Ali-Asgari, director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, for blocking information.