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US sanctions Iranian election officials for barring candidates, denying ‘fair’ poll

U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Brian Hook speaks at the announcement of the creation of the Iran Action Group in the Press Briefing Room, at the Department of State, August 16, 2018. (U.S. State Department/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has imposed restrictive measures on the five unelected members of an Iranian government agency it accuses of fixing national elections that are set for later this week.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions against the members of Iran’s Guardian Council and its Elections Supervision Committee on February 20, a day before the election.

The United States accuses the agency of disqualifying candidates who don’t follow the policies of the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The sanctioned men include Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric who is also the secretary of the Guardians Council. Jannati had taken part in “vetting” candidates, Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, said at a February 20 briefing in Washington.

Hook said the election committee “denied more than 7,000 candidates the right to run for a parliamentary seat” in the February 21 poll. An additional 90 sitting members of parliament were disqualified from running for reelection, he added.

Jannati and the four other sanctioned members “have denied the Iranian people free and fair” elections, Hook said.

“The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime’s malign agenda, and this [sanctions] action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a separate statement.

The measures also apply to Mohammad Yazdi, a member of Iran’s Guardians Council who was formerly Iran’s first judiciary chief. The other three members of the election committee are Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, Siamak Rahpeyk, and Mohammad Hasan Sadeghi Moghadam.

The sanctions will freeze any property belonging to the individuals in the United States and prohibit U.S. citizens from conducting financial transactions with them.