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US blacklists 5 Iranian officials for impeding 'fair' elections

February 21, 2020 at 9:43 pm

Iranians holding their identity cards as they wait to cast their ballots during Iran’s 12th presidential election, at Shah Abdol Azim mosque in Tehran, Iran on 19 May, 2017 [Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency]

The United States blacklisted five Iranian officials on Thursday, accusing them of preventing free and fair elections a day before a parliamentary vote that it branded a “sham”, according to a report by Reuters.

Iran’s election campaign ended on Thursday, ahead of the vote seen as a popularity test for the clerical establishment at a time when relations with Washington are at their worst since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement it imposed sanctions on the officials, members of Iran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee, over their role in disqualifying several thousand candidates.

“Many of them were Iranians who questioned the Supreme Leader’s policies,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, referring to those rejected from running. “This process is a sham. It is not free or fair,” he said.

Read: Khamenei loyalists may tighten grip at Iran elections

The Guardian Council, which must approve candidates, has rejected around 6,850 moderate or conservative hopefuls in favor of hardliners from among the 14,000 applicants seeking to contest the February 21 vote. About a third of lawmakers have also been barred from standing again.

Washington’s action on Thursday targeted Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the Guardian Council, Mohammad Yazdi, a member of Iran’s Guardian Council who was formerly Iran’s first judiciary chief, and three members of the Elections Supervisory Committee.

The sanctions freeze any US-held assets of the officials and generally bar Americans from doing business with them.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said voting is “a religious duty” but some prominent pro-reform politicians in Iran and activists abroad have called for a boycott.