US sanctions Iran’s information minister over internet blackout

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The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran‘s communications minister for his role in “widescale internet censorship”, a reference to a five-day-long nationwide shutdown meant to help stifle protests against fuel price hikes by Tehran.

The sanctions imposed Friday on Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi would block, or “freeze”, any of his property under US jurisdiction, the Department of the Treasury said in a statement, adding that US regulations generally prohibit dealings by Americans, or those transiting the US, in such property.

‘Identified and arrested’

On Friday, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) arrested about 100 leaders of the protests that erupted last week, said Gholamhossein Esmaili, spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, according to the official IRNA news agency.

Anyone who created insecurity or damaged public property will face “severe punishment”, the head the judiciary, Ebrahimi Raisi, said.

Meanwhile, the IRGC said calm had returned across Iran on Thursday, state TV reported, also showing thousands marching in pro-government rallies in about half a dozen cities on Friday.

‘Repressive internet censorship’

Azari-Jahromi has advanced Tehran’s policy of “repressive internet censorship” while in office, according to the Treasury Department, which described him as a former intelligence official who has been involved in surveillance against opposition activists.

On Thursday, Iranian media said the country’s National Security Council, which had ordered the shutdown, approved reactivating the internet gradually in some areas.

The youngest minister in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani‘s cabinet, Azari-Jahromi reportedly has presidential ambitions, according to Iran analysts.

“We will hold members of the Iranian regime accountable for their violent repression of the Iranian people,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote in a tweet.

source : aljazeera

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