FILE PHOTO: People run from the IRGC security forces during a protest in Tehran. REUTERS./

By Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis

 – The United States on Thursday put sanctions on Iran‘s morality police over allegations of abuse of Iranian women, saying it held the unit responsible for the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody that has sparked protests around Iran.

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The U.S. Treasury Department also accused the morality police of violating the rights of peaceful protesters and said it had imposed sanctions on seven senior Iranian military and security officials, including the chief of the Iranian army’s ground forces.

Public outrage in Iran over Amini’s death last week showed no sign of abating after days of protests in Tehran and other cities, with protesters torching police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday and reports of security forces coming under attack. Read full story

Amini, a Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police in Tehran for wearing “unsuitable attire” and fell into a coma while in detention. The authorities have said they would investigate the cause of her death.

“Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in Morality Police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

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“The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.

Iran‘s Mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sanctions.

The senior officials designated included the morality police’s head, Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi; the commander of the Iranian army’s ground forces, Kiyumars Heidari; and Esmail Khatib, Iran’s minister of intelligence, the Treasury said.

It identified the others as Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, head of the morality police’s Tehran division during Amini’s detention and death; Salar Abnoush, deputy commander of Iran‘s hardline Basij militia; Qasem Rezaei and Manouchehr Amanollahi of Iran‘s Law Enforcement Forces.

All property and interests in property of those designated that fall under U.S. jurisdiction was blocked and must be reported to the Treasury, the department said.

Foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate a significant transaction or provides significant services for those sanctioned could be subject to U.S. penalties, it added.

(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

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