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U.S. official: Trump admin to sanction Iran for wrestler’s execution, other abuses

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce on Thursday afternoon sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Court system on human rights’ grounds for the execution of a 27-year-old wrestler and other abuses, Fox News has reported citing a U.S. official.

Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, and Adelabad Prison will be sanctioned for their responsibility in Navid Afkari’s trial, imprisonment, and execution, according to the report. In 2018, Afkari was arrested for participating in anti-government protests. Subsequently, the wrestler was charged with murder, tortured, and then executed on September 12, according to a U.S. official.

This will be the first time that the United States will impose sanctions on judges and courts in another country for human rights abuses. State Department policy has long omitted foreign judges and courts from human rights sanctions, representing a dramatic departure for U.S. foreign policy.

Pompeo, in order to authorize the sanctions, has decided that Iran’s Revolutionary Court system does not meet the definition of a regular court system, said the U.S. official, according to Fox News.

“These so-called ‘revolutionary courts’ are not what anyone in the United States would recognize as a court. Their purpose is to maintain the regime’s stranglehold on power and put Iranians who seek freedom into prison—or even to order their execution,” said Elliott Abrams, U.S. Special Representative for Iran, giving credence to Pompeo’s supposed justification. “They take orders for their verdicts from the ayatollahs and they make a mockery of justice.”

International outcry followed Afkari’s execution, prompting State and Treasury Department officials to finish the often months-long sanctions process in less than two weeks, says a U.S. official.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has toughened its stance on Iran. In 2018, the administration withdrew the U.S. from the multilateral 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a deal that many in the U.S. viewed as ineffective.

This week, the administration is seeking to reinstate the United Nations Security Council sanctions that were suspended following the 2015 deal’s signing. This move prompted a joint statement from the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, saying that this action “is incapable of having any legal effect.” Despite this denunciation, the U.S. will proceed with the sanctions, it announced on Monday.

Iran has repeatedly violated the terms of the agreement following the U.S. withdrawal in order to advance its nuclear program. Western countries have long accused the program of being a front for the development of nuclear weapons, a claim which Iran’s regime repeatedly denies.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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VP Kamala Harris publicly mourns Palestinians killed in hostage rescue operation

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Vice President Kamala Harris mourned the Palestinians in Gaza who were killed in the successful Israeli hostage rescue operation this weekend during an address delivered over the weekend.

Israeli forces say Hamas intentionally kept the hostages in a “civilian environment.” They also said even the Palestinians who were holding the hostages were also “civilians.”

Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari of the IDF said Hamas has been holding hostages inside civilian buildings, including the locations where Israeli forces rescued Noa Argamani, 26, Almog Meir Jan, 22, Shlomi Ziv, 41, and Andrey Kozlov, 27.

“Before I begin, I just say a few words about the morning which I know weighs heavily on all of our hearts,” she said.

“On Oct. 7, Hamas committed a brutal massacre of 1,200 innocent people and abducted 250 hostages,” she continued. “Thankfully, four of those hostages were reunited with their families tonight. And we mourn all of the innocent lives that have been lost in Gaza, including those tragically killed today.”

The Israeli operation retrieved four hostages who were taken into Gaza by Hamas on Oct. 7. Harris, speaking before the Michigan Democratic Party, celebrated their retrieval but spent more time lamenting the deaths of Palestinians killed in the operation, many of whom Israel has described as terrorists.

“We have been working every day to bring an end to this conflict in a way that ensures Israel is secure, brings home all hostages, ends ongoing suffering for Palestinian people and ensures that Palestinians can enjoy their right to self-determination, dignity and freedom,” Harris added. “As President Biden said last week, it is time for this war to end.”

Fox News reports that Hamas-run authorities in Gaza claim over 270 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli operation, though they make no distinction between militants and innocents. Israeli forces claim the number was fewer than 100.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan also confirmed reports on Sunday that some number of innocents appeared to have been killed in the operation.

“We the United States are not in a position today to make a definitive statement about [the death toll],” Sullivan said in a Sunday interview with CNN. “But we do know this: innocent people were tragically killed in this operation. The exact number we don’t know, but innocent people were killed.”

“Every day that we see more innocent people lost is another horrible, awful, tragic day,” he added.

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