US Spending Bill Includes Sanctions for Harassing, Surveilling Iranian Citizens

A $1.7 trillion spending bill the U.S. Congress passed last week includes a measure seeking accountability for people working for or on behalf of the government of Iran to harass and surveil Iranian citizens.

The Masih Alinejad Harassment and Unlawful Targeting Act is named after a VOA Persian television host and critic of the Iranian government who was the target of a plot to kidnap her and take her back to Iran.

“Congress finds that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran surveils, harasses, terrorizes, tortures, abducts, and murders individuals who peacefully defend human rights and freedoms in Iran, and innocent entities and individuals considered by the Government of Iran to be enemies of that regime, including United States citizens on United States soil, and takes foreign nationals hostage,” the legislation says.

The measure directs the U.S. secretary of state to file a report detailing the state of human rights in Iran, what actions the Iranian government has taken during the past year to target dissidents inside and outside of Iran and how it finances the silencing of its critics.

The report, which is to be updated yearly, is also required to identify people who work for the Iranian government who are involved in harassment, surveillance, kidnapping, torture or killing of Iranian and U.S. citizens who seek to expose illegal or corrupt activities carried out by Iranian officials.

Those individuals are subject to sanctions that include being ineligible to enter the United States, canceling of existing visas and blocks on owning property in the United States.

Foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct a significant transaction with any of those individuals are also subject to sanctions.

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