EU sanctions 32 Iran officials for human-rights violations

UK’s Hague protests excessive use of death penalty on vague charges in Iran; says 32 are "responsible, instrumental" in Tehran's policies.

EIH Bank 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
EIH Bank 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN – The 27-member European Union slapped 32 Iranian officials on Tuesday with human-rights sanctions.
Speaking to reporters in Luxembourg on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, “We have agreed on sanctions, restrictive measures on Iran because of the appalling human rights record of Iran.
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“Iran seems to have believed with all the change in the Mideast that they think they can get away with an even worse human rights situation in their country,” Hague continued.
He cited 32 Iranians to be sanctioned by the EU because they are “responsible and instrumental in the policies” of Iran, including extra-judicial executions and “imprisonment of opposition leaders.”
According to Hague, there has been “excessive use of the death penalty on vague charges” in Iran, and the Islamic Republic has engaged in the “detention of more journalists than any other country in the world.”
Additionally, a 2010 Amnesty International report noted that Iran led the Middle East in “credible reports” of executions, with more than 300 in 2010. The US State Department said Iran applied the death penalty to 312 people last year.
Meanwhile, Iran has stopped providing fuel to European aircraft in retaliation for their refusal to fuel Iranian aircraft, Iran’s state-run newspaper quoted a senior official as saying on Wednesday.
“In a retaliatory move, we have stopped providing fuel to European aircraft,” said First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, the daily reported.
Last year, US President Barack Obama signed into law far-reaching new sanctions on Iran that targeted the country’s fuel imports – punishing any company worldwide that exports gasoline or other refined petroleum products to Iran. Reports said Iranian planes had been denied fuel in Germany, Britain and a Gulf Arab state. Iran had warned European countries in 2010 that it would take action if some Western countries continued to refuse to supply fuel for Iranian planes.
Responding to US pressure, the Austrian energy giant OMV pulled the plug late last month on extending its contract to refuel Iran Air planes in Austria. Additionally, gas and oil companies ranging from BP, Shell, Total and Q8 (Kuwait Petroleum) have stopped furnishing Iran Air with fuel at a number of major European airports.
The OMV – along with a list of European, Russian and Chinese firms – is slated to show exhibits at Iran’s Oil Show in Tehran (April 16-19), according to a list on the Oil Show website. The Spanish government’s Institute of Foreign Trade is also sending a delegation to the Tehran oil event.
European-Iranian trade relations has thrust Austria and Germany into the spotlight over the last few weeks because of their noteworthy business deals with Iran’s government.
According to a Tuesday report in the daily Die Presse in Vienna, Austrian imports from Iran ballooned by 397 percent in 2010, compared with the same period in 2009. Austrian exports to Iran increased by 6.2% in 2010, in contrast to 2009.
Last year, Austria imported 672,000 tons of Iranian oil. While the importation of Iranian crude oil is not barred by EU sanctions, critics argue that imposing an embargo on Iranian crude oil could influence dramatic changes in Iran’s behavior.
In an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, Samuel Laster, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Israel online Jewish website Die Jüdische in Vienna, wrote that the “OMV seems to be interested in strengthening its Iran business.”
He said the partially state-owned OMV is dominated by the Austrian Social Democrats. As a result, the current Social Democratic Chancellor Werner Faymann is reticent when dealing with OMV, noted Laster, who was born in Kfar Saba.
Laster, who speaks fluent Hebrew and German, grew up in Netanya and relocated to Austria at the age of 10. He served in the IDF between 1980-1982 in a armored unit, and frequently appears in the media as an expert on Austrian- Israeli relations.
He added that “business takes priority over morality” in Austria and “it is more difficult to bring this topic to discussion” in the Central European country.
Laster said the combination of politics and business is much closer in Vienna than elsewhere.
“The always recurring business deals between Austria and Jew-haters and anti- Semites – like Gaddafi and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – are apparently part of a consensus in the Alpine Republic [Austria],” Laster wrote.
Germany’s refusal to shut down the European-Iranian trade bank (EIH) – widely considered to be Europe’s leading financial lifeline for Iran’s nuclear and military programs – has further rattled Washington and the French.
Writing on Tuesday in her popular Washington Post blog “Right Turn,” the prominent journalist Jennifer Rubin noted, “I spoke this morning with a key senate aide on the topic of Iran sanctions. He told me, ‘This is an infuriating problem.’ He observed that the sanctions law passed last year ‘makes clear that anyone who does business with designated entities like EIH Bank runs the risk of themselves being sanctioned.’”
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Germany snubbed a French proposal to outlaw the EIH in February. The US Treasury Department sanctioned the EIH last year because of its proliferation activities, but the Merkel administration seeks to conduct business with the bank because many German companies are conducting trade via the EIH with Iran.
Germany is Iran’s No. 1 European trade partner.
Reuters contributed to report.