Citing deep concern over human rights abuses in Iran’s prisons, the U.S. sanctioned Tehran’s prison apparatus and a key prison official Thursday, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
The sanctions, naming specifically the Tehran Prisons Organization and its lead official Sohrab Soleimani, reflect the latest attempt by the U.S. to combat the Iranian regime’s support of global terrorism and continued human right’s violations against its prisoners.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the sanctions are in line with and compliant with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear agreement.
“Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens. “We will continue to identify, call out, and sanction those who are responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran” Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) John E. Smith said.
Sohrab Soleimani, the head of the Tehran Prison Organization and who came under the radar during a brutal crackdown by prison officials at Iran’s notorious Evin prison in 2014, was also added to the OFAC Specifically Designated National’s (SFC) list.
He is also coincidentally the brother of shadowy Revolutionary Guard General Qasem Soleimani, the notoriously brutal commander of the Quds Forces, conducting Iran’s clandestine operations outside Iran’s borders. His latest offensives have been in Syria, propping the Bashar Al Assad regime in line with Tehran’s steadfast support of Syria’s government.
Iran’s government has drastically increased its human rights abuses against prisoners including Westerners, political dissidents, writers, bloggers, journalists and others since the Green Revolution of June 2009.
“These sanctions mark a clear change of policy between the Trump Administration, which has decided to defend Iran’s civil society and the past Obama administration which had abandoned The Iranian people since 2009,” Middle East expert and foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign Dr. Walid Phares told The Foreign Desk.
“This is a message as to the new direction in Washington.”
During the White House Press Briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer noted that the sanctions come at a time when “Iran continues to unjustly detain in its prisons various foreigners including U.S. Citizens Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi. We join recent calls by international organizations and U.N. human rights experts for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained or missing in Iran so that they can return to their families.”
Last year, a British mother was sentenced in a secret trial to five years in Evin Prison, the notorious “hell on Earth” prison in northwestern Tehran, on unknown charges.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been serving her prison term in the women’s ward of Evin.
Former U.S. detainees Jason Rezaian and Pastor Saeed Abedini were incarcerated at Evin and released just after the nuclear deal was announced, although both U.S. and Iran officials maintain the two incidents were unrelated.