11 officials, 4 entities subject to visa bans, asset freezes

EU sanctions Iran’s so-called ‘morality police’ amid deadly crackdown on protests

German FM: ‘We cannot and will not close our eyes’ to beating of demonstrators, prison fire; bloc still stresses need to revive nuclear deal with Tehran

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran, shows people gathering next to a burning motorcycle in the capital Tehran on October 8, 2022. (AFP)
A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran, shows people gathering next to a burning motorcycle in the capital Tehran on October 8, 2022. (AFP)

LUXEMBOURG — EU foreign ministers on Monday met to adopt sanctions on Iran, with several condemning the regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters — while stressing the need to revive a moribund nuclear deal with Tehran.

Diplomats told AFP that the sanctions list, agreed by EU ambassadors ahead of the ministers’ meeting, contains 11 Iranian officials and four entities.

They will be subject to EU visa bans and asset freezes.

Among those to be targeted in the sanctions is “the so-called morality police, a word that is not really appropriate when you see the crimes that are being committed there,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.

The list was drawn up before the latest dramatic turn of events in Iran: a deadly fire at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, where the regime holds Iranian political prisoners, as well as dual nationals and foreigners.

The EU has been alarmed at the Iranian regime’s bloody crackdown on protests sparked by the death a month ago of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old taken into custody by morality police who arrest women deemed to wear Islamic headscarves inappropriately.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the EU Council building in Luxembourg, Oct. 17, 2022 (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The demonstrations have since morphed into anti-regime street protests, with those taking part demanding the end of the mullah-led regime.

“When you see these terrible pictures of the fire in the prison, when you see that peaceful people, women, men and, increasingly, young people and schoolchildren continue to be brutally beaten then we cannot and will not close our eyes to this,” Baerbock said.

She warned: “If this violence continues, then more will follow.”

Regime ‘not working’

Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde said the sanctions were against “those responsible for the repression of peaceful demonstrations and not least the murder of several women.”

“It will be sanctions against security police, political officials and those who have led the violence,” she said, calling the step “an important and welcome decision.”

A picture obtained from the Iranian Mizan News Agency on October 16, 2022 shows damage caused by a fire in the notorious Evin prison, northwest of the Iranian capital Tehran (Koosha MAHSHID FALAHI / MIZAN / AFP)

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn was skeptical that the EU sanctions would “hurt” Iran, but said: “This regime may have worked during the last 40 years but it is not working now. And that is why the European Union has to take this first step now.”

The United States, Britain and Canada have already announced their own sanctions against Iran for the rights violations taking place.

Tehran has responded by accusing the United States of fomenting the anti-regime protests.

The developments happened as hopes are fading of restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that was torpedoed when then-president Donald Trump in 2018 withdraw US support.

In this October 1, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, tear gas is fired by security to disperse protesters in front of the Tehran University, Iran. (AP Photo)

The EU has over the past year and half been coordinating efforts, so far unsuccessfully, to bring the US and Iran back into full compliance with the accord, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

“It does make sense to…come to an agreement with Iran, but there’s only one party blocking and stonewalling…in the last months and years — and that is Iran itself,” Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra said.

Iran also fed into the ministers’ discussion on Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Kyiv and a growing number of observers say that Iran is supplying Russia with drones to strike Ukrainian targets, which Tehran denies.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc will seek “concrete evidence” of Iranian drone use in Ukraine.

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