US to restrict visas for Iranian officials detaining peaceful protesters: Pompeo

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The United States will restrict visas for current or former Iranian officials who abuse or detain peaceful protests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, as Washington ramps up its campaign to pressure on the Islamic Republic.

“We’re restricting visas for current or former Iranian officials and individuals responsible for, or complicit in, the abuse, detention or killing of peaceful protesters or for inhibiting their rights to freedom of expression or assembly,” Pompeo said.

The unrest in Iran began on Nov. 15 after the Iranian government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 200 percent. It spread to more than 100 cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded clerical leaders step down.

Washington also announced sanctions on Thursday for two Iranian judges it accused of punishing Iranian citizens and dual nationals for exercising their freedoms of speech and assembly.

Pompeo said one of the judges, Abolghassem Salavati, sentenced US citizen Xiyue Wang to 10 years in prison on spying charges. Wang was released earlier this month in a prisoner exchange after being held for three years.

“We’re gladdened we won Xiyue’s release, but he should have never been sentenced or jailed in the first place,” Pompeo said.

In addition to Salavati, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Mohammad Moghisseh, a judge it said was “notorious for sentencing scores of journalists and internet users to lengthy prison terms."

Both judges have previously been blacklisted by the European Union, according to the Treasury.

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