U.S. Blacklists Iran’s Interior Minister Over Human Rights Abuses

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) – The United States imposed sanctions on Iran‘s interior minister on Wednesday, accusing him of engaging in serious cases of human rights abuse.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli gave orders authorizing the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) of Iran to use lethal force in response to anti-government protests in November, leading to the killing of protesters, including at least 23 minors, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

“His – and the regime’s – goal was to quash these peaceful protests and suppress the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression at any cost,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.

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The Treasury on Wednesday also blacklisted seven senior officials of the LEF, including commander Hossein Ashtari Fard, and a provincial commander of Iran‘s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, for their roles in the suppression of protesters.

The LEF Cooperative Foundation – which the Treasury said is controlled by the LEF and is active in Iran‘s energy, construction, services, technology and banking industries – was also blacklisted, as were its director and members of the board of trustees.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) walks with Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as Rouhani. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

Treasury’s action freezes any U.S.-held assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

Washington also barred Rahmani Fazli and Ali Fallahian, the head of Iran‘s intelligence service from 1989 to 1997, from traveling to the United States. The State Department said Fallahian was involved in assassinations and attacks around the world.

“The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have spiked since U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal and began reimposing sanctions eased under the accord.

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Susan Heavey Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Tom Brown)