- Raisi has promised to continue fighting violence
- The victory in the 2021 elections strengthened the courage of the Iranians
- Supreme Leader Khamenei has the final say in Iran
- Raisi was sanctioned by the US for human rights violations
DUBAI, Jan 17 (Reuters) – As a young prosecutor in Tehran, Ebrahim Raisi sat on a “death committee” that oversaw the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in the Iranian capital, rights groups say.
President now three decades later, and seen as Iran’s greatest leader, Raisi is leading an unwavering response to domestic and international crises that have seen Iran’s courts handing down scores of people.
Four people were hanged after being found guilty of crimes related to the riots that took place in September in the police killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman from Iran. On Saturday, Iranian media reported that former assistant to the Ministry of Defense Alireza Akbari was killed for espionage.
The killing drew condemnation from Europe and the United States, but Mr. Raisi insisted that “identification, prosecution and punishment” of all those believed by the authorities to have committed violence would continue.
“The aim of this killing is to create a world of fear where people do not dare to protest and the authorities do not try to make mistakes,” said Ali Vaez, director of the International Crisis Group think-tank Iran.
Akbari, who received British citizenship and lives abroad, was “attracted” and arrested three years ago, British Foreign Affairs Minister James Cleverly said this week.
Raisi is overseeing a relentless crackdown on the uprising, which campaigners say has seen more than 500 people protest and dozens of security forces killed, similar to the 1988 purge of political prisoners.
Then, just weeks after the July ceasefire that ended eight years of war with Iraq, Iranian authorities secretly executed thousands of prisoners and opponents of the Islamic Republic.
Courts of Inquisitions, known as “committees of death”, have been set up all over Iran with religious judges, prosecutors and officials of the Ministry of Justice to decide the fate of thousands of prisoners in extrajudicial trials that lasted a few minutes, according to a report by Amnesty International.
Although the number of people killed across the country has not been confirmed, Amnesty said a lower estimate puts it at 5,000.
Raisi, who was then deputy prosecutor in Tehran, was a member of the capital’s death commission, according to Amnesty.
Human Rights Watch, in a report published last year, quoted a prisoner as saying that he had seen Raisi in a prison outside Tehran and that Raisi would go to the execution site to make sure the operation was carried out correctly.
When asked in 2021 about murder cases, Raisi said: “If a judge, a public prosecutor has protected the safety of people, he should be praised… held.”
The president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the matter.
Iranian officials acknowledged the killing but downplayed it. In February 1989, President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said “less than 1,000 were killed”. In 2016, a member of Tehran’s “death committee” said, “We are proud to have done what God ordered,” state media reported.
“Raisi was raised as president for several reasons, including brutality, loyalty, and lack of conscience. He showed these qualities in 1988,” said Saeid Golgar of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“He’s all over the place with oppression and politics.”
THEY ARE CONTROLLED BY US
Raisi was born in 1960 into a religious family in the north-eastern part of Iran, in the Shi’ite Muslim city of Mashhad. His father died when he was five, but he followed in his footsteps to become a religious leader.
As a young student at a religious seminary in the holy city of Qom, he participated in protests against the Western-backed Shah during the 1979 invasion. Later his connections with religious leaders in Qom made him a reliable criminal.
Raisi served as deputy chief justice for 10 years, before being appointed attorney general in 2014. Five years later, the United States impeached him for human rights violations, including murders in the 1980s.
In his bid for the presidency, Raisi lost to incumbent Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 election. His defeat was due to a 28-year-old audio tape that surfaced in 2016 and allegedly revealed his role in the assassination.
In a cartoon, the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who was then the deputy supreme leader, spoke about the massacre. Montazeri’s son was arrested and jailed for releasing the tape.
Raisi’s 2021 presidential campaign ended with a victory that brought all branches of power in the country into the hands of a courageous people who obey Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the first time in years.
His election victory appeared to burnish Raisi’s chances of one day succeeding the 83-year-old Khamenei, but some analysts and insiders believe his failure to shore up the faltering economy and his political problems have damaged his prospects.
Khamenei, not the president, has the final say on all major policies under Iran’s dual political system divided between the Shi’ite religious establishment and the government.
Raisi “isn’t driving repression. He’s a tool for it,” said ICG’s Vaez.
But his hard-line views, closely aligned with Khamenei, helped steer policy both abroad and at home.
Since his election, Iran has been playing a game in negotiations to save its nuclear deal with world powers, betting that it has the chance to win more sanctions relief by returning its highly developed uranium enrichment technology.
Khamenei was impressed with the initial 2015 deal negotiated by the pragmatist Rouhani government, a temporary success in Iran’s economic and political isolation.
But in 2018 then-President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal and reimposed sanctions, saying the deal – struck before he took office – was too lenient on Tehran.
Writing by Dominic Evans/Michael Georgy Editing by Mark Heinrich
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.