UK and EU consider new sanctions on Iran over suppression of protesters

Bloc reviewing 'all options at our disposal' to address killing of Mahsa Amini

A protester has her face painted with an Iranian national flag during a demonstration in support of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini during a protest on October 3, 2022 in Nantes, weetern France, following her death in Iran.  - Amini, 22, died in custody on September 16, 2022, three days after her arrest by the notorious morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women.  in Nantes, western France on September 29, 2022.  (Photo by Damien Meyer  /  AFP)
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The UK is considering new sanctions against Iran after its lethal crackdown on protests sparked by the "killing" of Mahsa Amini, the foreign secretary said on Tuesday.

Amini, 22, was pronounced dead on September 16 after being arrested by Iran's notorious "morality police", who said she had breached rules requiring women to wear hijabs and modest clothes.

Her death sparked the biggest wave of protests to rock Iran in almost three years and a crackdown in which scores of protesters have been killed and hundreds arrested.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly summoned the Iranian Charge d’Affaires to the Foreign Office to account for the actions of the Iranian government.

Speaking to the Today programme on Radio 4 on Wednesday, he said the UK was considering imposing new sanctions against the country.

"Of course we will look at that," he said. "We already have a very tough set of sanctions packages against Iran. The things Iranian women are doing are incredibly impressive, incredibly brave.

"Of course we are looking at the response of the Iranian regime to the actions of their people. We have taken a long-standing principled stance about the behaviour of governments to their peoples. And we are looking very closely at what’s happening in Iran."

Iran's Foreign Ministry summoned the British ambassador in Tehran on Tuesday in reaction to "interventionist comments" from Britain, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.

Its director general of Western Europe said London's remarks on Iran's internal affairs were "based on fake and provocative interpretations".

"The British side, by issuing unilateral statements, shows that it has a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic republic," he said. The Iranian official said Tehran would consider potential options in response to any unusual actions from Britain.

At least 63 people were killed last week when Iranian security forces “bloodily suppressed” a protest in Zahedan, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) group said.

It said the protest in the city in south-eastern Iran began after claims a police chief in the port city of Chabahar, in Sistan and Baluchestan province, had raped a 15-year-old girl.

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc was considering "all the options at our disposal, including restrictive measures, to address the killing of Mahsa Amini and the way Iranian security forces have been responding to the demonstrations".

Mr Borrell described the regime's repression of the protests as "disproportionate" and "unjustifiable", resulting in "tens or dozens of lives lost".

He offered condolences to the Iranian people over the death of Amini and voiced his admiration for the demonstrations against her killing.

"We have seen a wave of indignation and outrage turning into a nationwide protest in Iran," with demonstrators demanding "respect, justice and equality — nothing more", he said.

Mr Borrell said there had been no sign of a "credible investigation" into Amini's death and no accountability from the regime, which has shut down much of the internet access in the country.

US President Joe Biden said his administration would impose "further costs" this week on "perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters" in Iran.

Rights groups voiced deep concern after Iranian riot police used teargas and paintball guns on hundreds of students at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran on Sunday night.

Video footage showed those arrested being taken away with fabric hoods over their heads.

Mahsa Amini protests around the world - in pictures

Protests also spread to schools, with footage shared by Kurdish rights group Hengaw showing schoolgirls demonstrating in two cities in Amini's native Kurdistan province.

"Women, life, freedom," the young female protesters chanted as they marched down the central strip of a motorway in Marivan, in footage that AFP has not independently verified.

Mr Biden gave no indication of what measures he was considering against Iran, which is already under US economic sanctions largely related to its controversial nuclear programme.

Iran accused the US leader of "hypocrisy" in invoking human rights to impose new punitive measures.

"It would have been better for Mr Joe Biden to think a little about the human rights record of his own country before making humanitarian gestures, although hypocrisy does not need to be thought through," Iranian media reported Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani as saying.

Iran protests - in pictures

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused arch foes the US and Israel of fomenting the protests.

The riots "were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime, as well as their paid agents, with the help of some traitorous Iranians abroad", Mr Khamenei said.

The unrest has overshadowed diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, which had come close to a breakthrough in recent months before stalling again.

But White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed the "problems with Iran's behaviour" are separate from efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which Washington will pursue "as long as we believe" it is in US national security interests.

In his first public comments on Amini's death, Mr Khamenei, 83, said on Monday that Iranian police must "stand up to criminals".

"Some people, without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous, burnt the Quran, removed hijabs from veiled women and set fire to mosques and cars," he said.

He said "this is not about hijab in Iran", and that "many Iranian women who don't observe the hijab perfectly are among the steadfast supporters of the Islamic republic".

Iran's President Raisi condemns 'chaos' of protests after Mahsa Amini's death - video

On Tuesday, an official said singer Shervin Hajipour — who was arrested after his song Baraye (For), with lyrics taken from social media posts about the reasons people were protesting, went viral — was released on bail.

Another 400 people arrested in the purge were released on Tuesday "on condition of not repeating their actions", Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

Iran has repeatedly accused outside forces of stoking the protests and last week said nine foreign citizens — including from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — had been arrested.

Mahsa Amini's death sparks protests around the world - video

At least 92 protesters have been killed so far in the Amini rallies, said Iran Human Rights, which has been assessing the death toll despite internet cuts and blocks on WhatsApp, Instagram and other online services.

Amnesty International said earlier it had confirmed 53 deaths, after Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said last week that "around 60" had died.

At least 12 members of the security forces have been reported killed since September 16.

Iranian women cut hair in protest against death of Mahsa Amini - video

Updated: October 05, 2022, 8:38 AM