The EU and the UK introduce new sanctions against Iran for its violent crackdown on domestic protesters, but the EU says it will not yet designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group without a court order.

Protesters against Iran's Revolutionary Guard gathered in Brussels during the EU Foreign Affairs council meeting on Monday January 23, 2023.
Protesters against Iran's Revolutionary Guard gathered in Brussels during the EU Foreign Affairs council meeting on Monday January 23, 2023. (Reuters)

The European Union has introduced new sanctions against Iran for its "brutal" crackdown on protests, but the bloc's top diplomat said the country's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) cannot be listed as a terrorist group without a court decision.

The new sanctions announced on Monday follow long-deteriorating relations between the 27-nation EU and Tehran during stalled efforts to revive talks on its nuclear programme.

Relations worsened further as Iran has moved to detain several European nationals.

The bloc has also become increasingly critical of the continuing violent treatment of domestic protesters, including executions, and the transfer of Iranian drones to Russia.

Sweden, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, said the bloc's foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday "adopted a new package of sanctions against Iran, targeting those driving the repression."

"The EU strongly condemns the brutal and disproportionate use of force by the Iranian authorities against peaceful protesters," Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom was quoted as saying in a Twitter post by the country's EU diplomatic mission.

The European Parliament has called on the EU to go further and list the IRGC as a 'terrorist' entity, blaming it for the clampdown on protests and the supply of drones for Russia's war against Ukraine.

But the EU's top diplomat said a court ruling with a concrete legal condemnation had to first be handed down in a member country before the EU itself could apply any such designation.

Iran warned the EU against designating the IRGC as a terrorist entity, saying on Monday that it would be an attack on the country's national security.

READ MORE: Iran's IRGC says EU designating it as terror group would be 'mistake'

British sanctions

Britain has also sanctioned more Iranian figures on Monday over what it said were human rights violations on Iranian people including the recent execution of British-Iranian dual national Alireza Akbari.

The sanctions included an asset freeze on Iranian deputy prosecutor general Ahmad Fazelian, who the British foreign office said was responsible for an unfair judicial system that used the death penalty for political purposes.

Others sanctioned include Kiyumars Heidari, commander in chief of Iran's ground forces; Hossein Nejat, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps; the Basij Resistance Force and its deputy commander, Salar Abnoush.

The Basij Cooperative Foundation, linked to the Basij militia, and Qasem Rezaei, deputy commander of Iran's law enforcement forces, were also sanctioned.

Amid the Iran protests, now on its fourth month, authorities have arrested three female journalists in the past two days, Iranian media reported on Monday.

"In the past 48 hours, at least three female journalists, namely Melika Hashemi, Saideh Shafiei and Mehrnoush Zarei, have been arrested in Tehran," reformist newspaper Etemad quoted the Tehran journalists' union as saying.

The paper said the three women had been transferred to Evin prison, where many of those arrested in connection with the protests are being held.

It estimated that about 80 journalists have been arrested since the start of the unrest in the country four months ago.

Authorities say hundreds of people, including members of the security forces, have been killed and thousands arrested during what they label as "riots" incited by the "enemies" of the Islamic republic.

READ MORE: UK sanctions Iran prosecutor general over British-Iranian's execution

Source: TRTWorld and agencies