EU targets ministers, lawmakers in new sanctions over Iran protests crackdown

EU targets ministers, lawmakers in new sanctions over Iran protests crackdown
The EU's new sanctions target 32 individuals and two entities and are aimed at those involved in Tehran's crackdown against Iranian protestors.
3 min read
21 February, 2023
The EU has imposed more sanctions against Iranian officials [Getty/file photo]

The European Union imposed asset freezes and visa bans on Iran's education and culture ministers on Monday, in a fifth round of sanctions against Tehran over its crackdown on demonstrators.

The new measures targeted 32 individuals and two entities, and were largely aimed at lawmakers, judiciary officials and prison authorities accused of involvement in the repression, according to the EU's official journal.

Iran was rocked by months of nationwide protests last year after the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September following her arrest for an alleged breach of the dress code.

Iran has arrested at least 14,000 people in the wave of protests, according to the United Nations.

Iranian authorities have executed four people for their role in the unrest and imposed the death penalty on a total of 18, triggering widespread international outrage.

The latest round of sanctions from the EU included Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili for persecuting artists and filmmakers who did not support the government.

Education Minister Yousef Nouri was added to the blacklist for the targeting and detention of school pupils engaged in the protests.

Judges, prosecutors and senior prison officials were also included in the new sanctions over their involvement in alleged abuses.

The EU had already imposed sanctions on more than 70 Iranians over the crackdown on protestors, including the "morality police", Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and state media.

But the 27-nation bloc has so far stopped short of blacklisting the Revolutionary Guards themselves as a terror group, despite calls from Germany and the Netherlands to do so.

Live Story

The new round of sanctions came as thousands of opponents of Iran's government protested across the street from the EU headquarters in Brussels as the bloc's foreign ministers met.

Demonstrators waved Iran's monarchist-era tricolour flag and called on the bloc to impose tougher measures against the Revolutionary Guards.

The EU has ratcheted up its sanctions on Iran as efforts it is mediating to try to revive the 2015 deal on Tehran's nuclear ambitions have largely stalled.

European nations are set to toughen sanctions on Iran drone manufacturers helping to arm Russia in a new package of measures over the Ukraine war expected this week.

The bloc on Monday also blasted Iran over the detention of an growing number of EU citizens in what critics have described as Tehran's policy of "state hostage-taking".

"The European Union strongly rejects Iran's practice of arbitrary detention targeting EU and dual EU-Iranian nationals," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement.

The EU "calls upon Iran to end the distressing practice of detaining foreign civilians with a view to making political gains," he said.

Around two dozen foreigners and dual nationals are detained in Iran.