On December 19th, the US Treasury sanctioned two Iranian judges who “penalize Iranians for exercising freedoms of expression and assembly.”
“The United States will not be a bystander to ongoing oppression and injustice in Iran. This Administration is targeting those in the regime who seek to censor protestors, persecute religious minorities, and silence the Iranian people,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States stands with those who participate in peaceful public dissent and protests.”
The judges are both part of the country’s Revolutionary Courts, albeit in different branches.
Treasury sanctions two judges who penalize Iranians for exercising freedoms of expression and assembly. https://t.co/hUcsOpXnFF
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) December 19, 2019
Abdolghassem Salavati “presides over Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, where he has prosecuted and delivered harsh sentences, including many death sentences, to scores of political prisoners, human rights activists, and peaceful demonstrators, earning him the moniker ‘the Judge of Death.’”
Mohammad Moghisseh “presides over Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, where he has overseen countless unfair trails, during which charges went unsubstantiated and evidence was disregarded.
He is notorious for sentencing scores of journalists and internet users to lengthy prison terms. In one case alone, he sentenced eight Iranian Facebook users to a cumulative total of 127 years in prison for charges including anti-regime publicity and insults to religion. Multiple artists, including filmmakers and poets, have also been tried in Moghisseh’s court under charges such as collusion against national security and propaganda against the state allegedly found in their artwork.”
On the same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the State Department was also imposing visa restrictions on current and former Iranian officials complicit in what he called human rights abuses against protesters. He did not name the officials, but said the visa restrictions would also extend to their family members.
A bystander would have considered that the US had managed to sanction, more or less, every Iranian official by now, but it appears there is an infinite number of “sanction targets.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo merely speaks of bullying, deceit, humiliation and insult through provoking anger, aggression, ignorance as well as extremism.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, together with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif visited Kuala Lumpur for the Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019.
As part of his visit, the President spoke to Iranian expatriates and announced that Iran is testing new uranium centrifuges.
Rouhani said that in the nuclear field, the Islamic Republic has had great achievements and today, Iranian new IR-6 centrifuges are working and models IR-9 are currently under test.
The more advanced and taller centrifuges can shorten the time to enrich uranium. According to the think tank The Washington Institute, the IR-2 is able to produce between three and five times as much enriched uranium as an IR-1.
Iran has increased its nuclear program since 2018 when U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that aimed to restrict the Middle Eastern country’s nuclear industry by, among other conditions, limiting its ability to enrich uranium, which can be used for reactors and weapons.
Iran has decided to stop adhering to some non-mandatory provisions of the Iran Nuclear Deal since complete adherence brought it little, if any benefit whatsoever, since the other signatories on the deal, and namely the UK, France and Germany have failed to counter any of the US sanctions, despite trying.
In November, Iran said it had further separated itself for JCPOA by starting the process to enrich uranium at its Fordow nuclear facility, which was supposed to be turned into a nuclear physics research lab under the deal.
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