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US sanctions Iranian officials for barring candidates

The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on five Iranian officials in charge of vetting candidates for the Islamic republic’s parliamentary elections, in which thousands have been barred from running.
The officials targeted ahead of Friday’s vote include Ahmad Jannati, a powerful cleric accused of overseeing the disqualification of candidates as part of the Guardian Council. The ultra-conservative also plays a key role in a body that selects the regime’s supreme leader.
“The Trump Administration will not tolerate the manipulation of elections to favor the regime’s malign agenda, and this action exposes those senior regime officials responsible for preventing the Iranian people from freely choosing their leaders,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
“The US will continue to support the democratic aspirations of Iranians,” he added.
The sanctions mean that any US assets of the officials will be frozen and transactions with them is a crime for anyone in the United States.
Jannati is the longtime secretary of the Guardian Council, which is responsible for vetting candidates for parliamentary seats.
The Treasury Department said that as the council’s secretary and a member of Iran’s Elections Supervision Committee, Jannati oversaw the disqualification of nearly half the 16,033 potential candidates.
Most of those disqualified were moderates or reformist candidates, clearing the way for conservatives to make big gains in the election at the expense of moderate backers of President Hassan Rouhani.
Also sanctioned was Mohammed Yazdi, a former chief of the judiciary who was recently appointed to the Guardian Council by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Yazdi also serves on the central supervisory committee, as do the others sanctioned -- Siamakh Rahpeyk, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei and Mohammad Hasan Sadeghi Moghadam, all of whom were Jannati appointees to the committee, according to the Treasury said.