Iran: Presidential Candidate in Charge of Executing Thousands in 1988 Massacre

Ebrahim Raisi is currently a member of the Assembly of Experts, general deputy at the Special Clerical Court and Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, as reported by Al Arabiya on April 26, 2017. He is a 56-year-old conservative cleric who is relatively unknown to outside of Iran. Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity in the Muslim world, and the organization in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine, Raisi is believed to be being groomed as the frontrunner to be Iran’s next supreme leader.

For more that a quarter-century, Khamenei has ruled as supreme leader, and his tenure will end only with his death. After the sudden death of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, the country’s dos successful political survivor, speculation about Khamenei’s succession have arisen. In 2014 it was announced that Khamenei had undergone prostate surgery. 

According to the Iranian opposition, Raisi was a member of the ‘Death Commission’ who interrogated political prisoners in opposition to the regime, and approved the execution of thousands in 1988, when the authorities executed what is estimated at between 3,500 and 15,000 political prisoners. The majority of those killed were members of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. 

The Iranian opposition also claims that Raisi has strong relations with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, security apparatuses and judicial authority. However, his popularity among the Iranian public is low, mainly due to his affiliation with the ‘Death Commission’. 

He is currently a member of the Assembly of Experts, and general deputy at the Special Clerical Court and Custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, an autonomous charitable foundation in Mashhad.   

He has recently written two open letters to President Hassan Rouhani and the conservative head of Iran’s state TV, Ali Askari. In his April 18 letter to Askari, Raisi criticized the state broadcaster’s coverage of Rouhani’s speeches, arguing that the incumbent is also a presidential candidate and state TV must thus stop airing “biased advertisements” in his favor. Raisi addressed Rouhani, saying, “It is a pity that the competition for serving [the people] is contaminated by the suspicious advertisements [on state TV].”

Al Arabiya reported that on the website of a campaign to defend human rights in Iran, Raisi was slammed for his to run for the presidency, and was accused of committing crimes against humanity. Hadi Qaimi, the campaign’s chief, asked, “Raisi should be tried to for committing these hideous crimes so how can he aspire to become president?”