By Justyna Pawlak and Marcus George / Reuters
BRUSSELS/DUBAI: The European Union has imposed sanctions on 17 Iranian officials, including prominent members of the government and the judiciary it says play a key role in serious human rights violations.
Agreed by EU foreign ministers on Friday, the new sanctions list, published on Saturday, includes the minister of information and communication, Reza Taqipour, and the head of Iran’s state broadcasting network (IRIB), Ezzatollah Zarghami.
The EU’s official journal describes Taqipour as “one of the top officials in charge of censorship and control of internet activities” and outlines IRIB’s role in the broadcast of “forced confessions and show trials.”
The head of the Iranian judiciary, Sadeq Larijani — brother of Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani — is on the list for signing off death sentences, including stoning, floggings, amputations and the pouring of acid into the eyes of the convicted.
The new names have extended the list to a total of 78 Iranians who are subject to asset freezes and travel bans because of their alleged involvement in human rights abuses.
The list is separate from EU sanctions against individuals and entities associated with Iran’s nuclear activities, which the EU and the United States believe are part of a programmer to develop nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
Tehran has accused the West of using what it says are bogus human rights concerns as a further way to isolate the Islamic Republic. It has drawn up its own list of Americans it says are guilty of rights violations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The United Nations renewed the mandate this week of its human rights investigator for Iran who has reported a dramatic increase in executions, many of them for relatively minor crimes.
The 17 names were agreed during a meeting of EU foreign ministers that also banned the export of equipment to Iran that can be used to monitor or intercept telecommunications.
“We deplore the continuing increase in executions and the widespread repression of Iranian citizens, including human rights defenders, journalists and members of the opposition,” EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, said after the meeting.
In a sign that sanctions are increasingly targeting Iran’s leadership, two officials directly under the command of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were also named on the list.
Ali Saeedi is Khamenei’s representative to the Revolutionary Guards, the military force established to protect the Iranian nation’s system of theocratic rule.
Ali Mirhejazi, the deputy chief of the supreme leader’s office and head of security is alleged to be responsible for suppressing opposition protests since 2009.
Campaign groups say rights in Iran have worsened since the disputed June 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that triggered mass demonstrations in cities across Iran.
“Internet activities and bloggers have faced a harsh crackdown over the last couple of months and that’s behind the targeting of officials associated with information technology,” said a European diplomat. “Likewise with the judiciary because of the sharp increase in death penalties in recent months.”
A judge and several prosecutors who are accused of violating the legal rights of defendants are also on the EU sanctions list. Other officials, including, the deputy interior minister for political affairs, Sneed Mortazavi, were added for their role in curtailing press freedom. –Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels