Bipartisan Senate bill will 'hold Iranian regime responsible for efforts to silence dissidents'

According to the text of the bill, it would “hold Tehran accountable for its ongoing efforts to silence dissidents and help to deter future violence against critics of the Iranian regime."

The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate. (photo credit: PIXABAY)
The US Capitol building, which contains the House of Representatives and the Senate.
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

WASHINGTON – US Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) introduced a bipartisan bill that would impose mandatory sanctions on agents of the Iranian regime who are knowingly involved in “surveillance, harassment, kidnapping, or assassination of Iranian or US citizens who are critics of the Iranian regime.”

The Masih Alinejad Harassment and Unlawful Targeting (HUNT) Act, was introduced last Thursday, ”aimed at holding the Iranian regime responsible for its ongoing efforts to silence dissidents by imposing new mandatory sanctions.” Iranian American journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad, who inspired the senators’ legislation, joined them to introduce the bill.

In July, US prosecutors charged four Iranians, alleged to be intelligence operatives for Tehran, with plotting to kidnap Alinejad, a critic of the Iranian regime, according to a Justice Department indictment.

“The brazen attempt by the Iranian regime to kidnap Masih Alinejad on American soil cannot go unchallenged. The US must exercise leadership against authoritarian regimes attempting to silence dissidents beyond their borders,” said Senator Cardin. “We send a clear message not only to the Iranian regime, but to all authoritarian regimes that if you engage in transnational repression and target dissidents on US soil, there will be dire consequences.”

Senator Toomey said that the Iranian regime’s attempt to kidnap Masih Alinejad from her home in Brooklyn “is a brazen escalation, and it requires a proportional response.”

 Senator Mark Kelly arrives at the US Capitol to vote as the Senate works to advance the bipartisan infrastructure bill in Washington, US, August 8, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/SARAH SILBIGER) Senator Mark Kelly arrives at the US Capitol to vote as the Senate works to advance the bipartisan infrastructure bill in Washington, US, August 8, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/SARAH SILBIGER)

“Masih is just one of the countless victims of Iran’s transnational repression to silence dissidents,” he added. “Clearly Iran is not getting the message that this malign behavior – especially against a US citizen on US soil – will not be tolerated. That’s why Senator Cardin and I have teamed up to introduce the Masih Alinejad HUNT Act to hold Iran accountable and deter future attacks.”

According to the text of the bill, it would “hold Tehran accountable for its ongoing efforts to silence dissidents and help to deter future violence against critics of the Iranian regime by imposing new mandatory sanctions on Iran.”

“Masih Alinejad is one of countless victims of the Iranian regime’s ongoing campaign to silence dissidents and journalists,” a statement of Cardin and Toomey reads. “Since the revolution in 1979, the Iranian state has frequently conducted assassinations of exiles and deployed a systematic campaign of assassinations, renditions, detentions, digital intimidation, unlawful surveillance, coercion by proxy, and other forms of suppression across Europe, the Middle East, and North America.”

“Tehran’s transnational repression is intertwined with its parallel campaigns of bombings, assassinations, and espionage directed at US, Jewish, and Israeli targets around the world, including on US college campuses,” the two said in a statement. “The bill will hold Tehran accountable and prevent future targeting against critics of the brutal regime by imposing mandatory sanctions against those engaging in acts of transnational repression on behalf of Iranian authorities,” they added.

It will also require the State Department to report on the state of human rights and the rule of law inside Iran and will mandate “a continuous assessment of Tehran’s targeting of dissidents at home and abroad, and how such suppression is financed.

It added that the bill would impose “mandatory sanctions on agents of the Iranian regime who are knowingly involved in surveillance, harassment, kidnapping, or assassination of Iranian or US citizens who are critics of the Iranian regime.” In addition, the bill will authorize secondary sanctions on banks “doing business with agents engaging in transnational repression and targeting dissidents on behalf of the Iranian state.”