EU approves new sanctions on Iran after protesters executed

Latest package aims to punish Tehran for human rights abuse, says top European diplomat

A protester in Turin, Italy expresses her solidarity with Iranian demonstrators after the death of Mahsa Amini in custody. Getty
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EU foreign ministers on Monday approved proposed sanctions on five Iranians and two entities after the execution in Iran last week of three men convicted of killing security force members during protests last year.

Those targeted include Salman Adinehvand, commander of the Tehran police relief unit of Iran's law enforcement forces and Saeed Montazer Al Mahdi, Iranian police spokesman.

In a press statement, the EU council said Mr Al Mahdi had repeatedly downplayed widely reported schoolgirl poisonings by claiming the "majority" of those alleged were "not real".

The co-operative foundation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is among the entities targeted by the new sanctions, according to the statement.

The EU said the foundation was responsible for managing the IRGC's investments and funnelling money into the violent crackdown on last year's demonstrations.

Nationwide protests erupted after the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian-Kurd Mahsa Amini on September 16.

She had been arrested by the morality police in Tehran after wearing her hijab “improperly”.

The other group targeted was the Student Basij Organisation (SBO), a branch within the Basij organisation that acts as the IRGC's "violent enforcers on university campuses", the EU said.

The SBO "used live ammunition and opened fire on students", the bloc added.

The Basij was created as a paramilitary volunteer militia by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, former Iranian supreme leader, in 1979.

It has a presence in every Iranian university, monitoring people's dress and behaviour.

This is the eighth time since October that Brussels has imposed sanctions on Iranian people and entities involved in the repression of protesters.

Sanctions include frozen assets and a travel ban to the EU.

Josep Borrell, the bloc's foreign affairs and security chief, linked Monday's announcement to last week's execution of three men over their alleged role in the anti-government protests.

“Remember that three people have been executed," Mr Borrell said in Brussels as he arrived at a meeting of foreign ministers.

On Friday, Majid Kazemi, Saleh Mirhashemi and Saeed Yaghoubi were hanged in the central city of Isfahan.

They had been sentenced to death in January after being found guilty of “moharebeh” – waging “war against God” – for allegedly killing two members of the Basij paramilitary force and a police officer on November 16, according to the Iranian judiciary.

They were the sixth and seventh Iranians executed in connection with the protests, which Tehran has described as foreign-instigated riots.

Thousands of Iranians were arrested and hundreds of people killed, including dozens of security personnel.

The country hanged 75 per cent more people in 2022 than the previous year, the Norway-based group Iran Human Rights and Paris-based Together Against the Death Penalty said in a joint report in April.

At least 582 people were executed in Iran last year, the highest number of executions in the country since 2015 and well above the 333 recorded in 2021, the two groups said.

But the pace of executions this year has been even higher so far, IHR now counting at least 260 executions since the start of the year.

Updated: May 22, 2023, 1:24 PM