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E.U. sanctions 32 Iranian officials for human rights abuses

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TEHRAN – The European Union on Thursday imposed travel bans and other sanctions against 32 Iranian police commanders, judges and prison wardens who, the bloc says, have committed human rights abuses.

The list of sanctioned officials includes judge Abdolghassem Salavati, who sentenced several people to death after they allegedly participated in anti-government demonstrations following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election victory.

The new sanctions also include freezing of the individuals’ assets in E.U. nations. The European Union earlier imposed similar sanctions against people with leading roles in Iran’s nuclear program.

Thursday’s move is aimed at naming and shaming individual officials rather than implementing a new round of nationwide sanctions that could hurt the general population, E.U. politicians say.

“These European sanctions are an important step in holding individual human rights violators accountable in Iran,” said Marietje Schaake, a member of the E.U. parliament who led the push for the new sanctions. She said the step demonstrates that the bloc insists on “differentiating between the population of Iran and those in power who oppress them.”

There has been no Iranian reaction to the new E.U. sanction list.

The State Department imposed similar sanctions against eight Iranian officials in September.

Both actions are mainly symbolic, since very few Iranian officials travel to the U.S. or the European Union (Ahmadinejad and his retinue who visit New York each year do so under the immunity of the United Nations).

The E.U. is debating the lifting of sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, who is barred from traveling to Europe because of his previous position as head of Iran’s nuclear energy program.

The United States follows a tougher line against the Islamic republic, stepping up financial and fuel sanctions in a way that has forced European oil majors to stop doing business with Iran. The E.U., on the other hand, freely allows oil sales between its member nations and Iran.

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