US imposes sanctions on Iranian morality police for abusing women

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By Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s vice squad, who accused it of abuse and violence against Iranian women and blamed it for the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody last week.

The US Treasury Department accused the vice squad of violating the rights of peaceful protesters and said it had imposed sanctions on seven senior Iranian military and security officials, including the chief of the Iranian military’s ground forces.

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“Mahsa Amini was a courageous woman whose death in the vice squad was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“We condemn this unscrupulous act in the strongest possible terms and call on the Iranian government to end violence against women and the continued violent crackdown on freedom of expression and assembly,” she added.

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Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities set fire to police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday as public outcry over Amini’s death showed no signs of easing, with reports of security forces coming under fire.

The seven officials placed under sanctions included the head of Iran’s vice squad, Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi; Iranian Army Ground Forces Commander Kiyumars Heidari; and Esmail Khatib, Iran’s intelligence minister, the finance ministry said.

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As a result of today’s action, all properties and interests in properties belonging to the designated persons under US jurisdiction have been blocked and must be reported to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Treasury said.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

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