US sanctions top Iranian officials for rights abuses

US President Barack Obama on Wednesday ordered sanctions against eight senior Iranian officials — including the minister of interior – for “sustained and severe violations of human rights.”

In a rare move targeting serving officials, Obama issued an executive order that would also freeze the assets of the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the prosecutor general and the deputy head of the national police service.

The group, including the minister of interior, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, were linked to the suppression of anti-government demonstrators following June 2009 elections.

Human rights groups have accused the government of suppressing the uprising through extra-judicial killings, rapes and torture.

Najjar, former deputy commander of Iran’s armed forces, was accused of being in charge of a crackdown in December 2009 in which 37 people died and hundreds were arrested.

“The United States will always stand with those in Iran who aspire to have their voices heard,” the White House said in a statement.

“We will be a voice for those aspirations that are universal, and we continue to call upon the Iranian government to respect the rights of its people.”