Iran Looks to Prosecute U.S. 'Thugs' Over Latest Financial Sanctions

Iranian judges have said they plan to set up a special court to prosecute American officials over Washington, D.C.'s sanctions campaign against Tehran, in what amounts to a symbolic move showing Iranian fury over what the regime has termed "economic terrorism."

Iranian deputy judiciary chief Ali Baqeri told Iranian media Monday that the judiciary will set up a new branch to prosecute supporters of U.S sanctions, the Fars News Agency reported.

Baqeri's proposal was welcomed by judiciary chief Seyed Ebrahim Rayeesi, who said the U.S. decision to impose further sanctions "makes us more determined to remain committed to our positions and measures against the hegemonic system."

Baqeri described the latest round of sanctions as a crime against humanity and said the U.S. administration had a "madness for crime" against Iran. Baqeri said the cases could be heard by national and local Iranian courts, which means any prosecution would carry no weight internationally and be a purely symbolic measure.

The U.S. announced last week that it would blacklist 18 Iranian banks that had previously escaped some American sanctions. The move will effectively cut Tehran off from the global financial market as President Donald Trump's administration seeks to cripple the regime ahead of November's presidential election.

Iranian officials reacted furiously, warning that the measures would prevent the country from accessing much needed humanitarian and medical supplies. The U.S. has repeatedly stressed that the sanctions have loopholes for humanitarian and medical aid. But Tehran says sanctioning banks indirectly limits aid due to the targeted institutions' role in facilitating imports.

Foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted: "Amid Covid19 pandemic, U.S. regime wants to blow up our remaining channels to pay for food & medicine. Iranians WILL survive this latest of cruelties. But conspiring to starve a population is a crime against humanity. Culprits & enablers—who block our money—WILL face justice."

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday Iranians should ignore the "thugs" in the Trump administration seeking ever tougher measures on Tehran. But for all the stubborn words from the regime, Iran's economy is wilting under the pressure of sanctions along with low oil prices and the impact of the pandemic.

Experts have said the regime will likely try to hold out until the U.S. presidential election next month, where a win for Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden might result in a limited easing of sanctions and the resumption of talks of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, from which Trump withdrew in 2018.

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A woman walks past a mural painted on the outer walls of the former U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran, on September 29, 2020. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty