Brussels hits Iranian journalists with new sanctions

Iran has pushed ahead with public hangings over protests

Majidreza Rahnavard, who was accused of killing two security officers and trying to flee the country, is believed to have been executed in Iran. AFP
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The European Council on Monday issued a series of sanctions against Iranian journalists accused of playing a role in the crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests that have rocked Iran since September.

The journalists were named as part of a third package of sanctions against Iran for human right abuses during the protests.

Those named in the sanctions include journalists who work for state-owned agency Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRPB). They include its director, Peyman Jebelli, as well as news anchor Ali Rezvani who are accused of participating in interrogations leading to forced confessions.

In total, the EU council sanctioned 20 Iranians in addition to the IRPB for their role in the violent response to demonstrations that erupted after the death in police custody of 22-year old Mahsa Amini.

Iran has called the protests “riots” and has claimed they have been encouraged by foreign adversaries.

Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said security forces have killed at least 458 people, and according to the UN, at least 14,000 have been arrested.

State authorities recently executed two men by hanging. The Iranian judiciary’s news agency Mizan on Monday published images showing a man with his hands tied behind his back hanging from a rope attached to a crane.

The man is believed to be 23-year old Majidreza Rahnavard, who was accused of killing two security officers and trying to flee the country before his arrest.

In its conclusions, the European Council condemned “the widespread, brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters, including women and children, leading to the loss of hundreds of lives”.

Among those hit with sanctions were prominent Shiite cleric Ahmad Khatami and commander-in-chief of the Iranian army Maj Gen Abdolrahim Mousavi.

The EU Council also added four individuals and four entities to the list of those sanctioned for undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine — a reference to Iran-made drones that have been used by Russia in the country.

“These weapons provided by Iran are being used indiscriminately by Russia against Ukrainian civilian population and infrastructure causing horrendous destruction and human suffering,” said the council.

“The European Union strongly cautions Iran against any new deliveries of weapons to Russia, in particular any steps towards possible transfers of short-range ballistic missiles to Russia, which would constitute a serious escalation.”

This is the EU's second package of sanctions against Iran for transferring drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

Iran has said it shipped a small number of drones to Russia before its invasion of Ukraine and Russia has denied its forces have used Iranian drones in the conflict.

Those hit by the sanctions include brigadier generals from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as well as Yousef Aboutalebi, managing director of an EU-listed drone manufacturer.

The council alleged that engines made by the company Oje Parvaz Mado Nafar were found in Iranian Shahed-136 drones used by Russia in Ukraine.

The designated entities includes Design and Manufacturing of Aircraft Engines, a company which produces Shahed-171 drones and is owned by the IRGC’s Aerospace Force.

The sanctions involve asset freezes, travel bans to the EU and a prohibition on making funds available to those listed.

The council previously adopted sanctions linked to human rights abuses in Iran on October 17 and on November 14, in addition to sanctions related to drone transfers on October 20.

The European Council also called on Iran to adhere to the now-defunct 2015 agreement that led to Iran putting limits on its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.

“The European Union strongly urges Iran to reverse its alarming nuclear trajectory,” it said.

It condemned “Iran’s continued destabilising activities in and around the Middle East”, including transferring drones and financially supporting non-state actors in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

“The European Union urges Iran to stop all actions or attempts that disrupt or threaten the safety and freedom of navigation in and around maritime routes in the wider Gulf region and respect applicable international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said the council, referring to alleged Iranian attacks on ships transiting through Gulf waters.

Speaking in Bahrain on November 18, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe wanted to strengthen its engagement in the Gulf region via closer co-operation on maritime security to ensure safe shipping lanes.

“Let us join forces for our collective security,” said Ms von der Leyen.

Updated: December 12, 2022, 7:34 PM