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EU sanctions Iranian security officials over 2019 protest crackdown

Head of Revolutionary Guard, Hossein Salami, among those hit over deadly repression of demonstrations
The decision to freeze assets and impose travel bans come as Brussels attempt to mediate efforts to revive the nuclear deal between world powers and Iran (AFP)

The European Union sanctioned the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and eight other Iranian security officials on Monday over a deadly crackdown in November 2019. 

Hossein Salami, who heads the powerful IRGC, was blacklisted alongside militia commanders and police chiefs by the EU. The bloc also sanctioned three Iranian prisons where they alleged torture of detainees had taken place. 

Other individuals targeted with EU sanctions include members of Iran's Basij militia and its head Gholamreza Soleimani. 

"Hossein Salami took part in the sessions that resulted in the orders to use lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests. Hossein Salami, therefore, bears responsibility for serious human rights violations in Iran," the EU said.

'Hossein Salami took part in the sessions that resulted in the orders to use lethal force to suppress the November 2019 protests'

- EU statement

The last time the EU sanctioned Iran over human rights abuses was in 2013. 

In November 2019, a surprise hike in fuel prices sparked nationwide protest across Iran before they were violently put down. The United Nations said at least 304 people were killed in the crackdown alongside mass arrests, while other rights group said the actual number of those killed was far higher.

The eight Iranians were added to an EU sanctions list for human rights abuses in Iran that was first launched in 2011 and which now numbers 89 people and four entities. It includes a ban on exports of equipment that could be used for repression.

Diplomats said the sanctions were not linked to efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which the United States pulled out of but now seeks to re-join.

Negotiations to bring the US back into the nuclear deal are ongoing in Vienna.

On Friday, the EU said talks were "constructive" with those involved looking to persuade Washington to drop sanctions reimposed by former US President Donald Trump and urge Iran not to breach the agreement. 

US President Joe Biden said he wants to revive the agreement, which places limits on Tehran's nuclear programme in return for reducing sanctions on Iran.