Winner of Iran presidency is hardline judge who is under U.S. sanctions

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DUBAI — Ebrahim Raisi’s record of intense commitment to Iran’s judgment clerics assisted discuss why the senior judge had actually been anticipated to win Friday’s governmental election, a contest the authorities restricted nearly specifically to hardline prospects like him.

The win for Raisi, 60, an implacable critic of the West whose political client is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, burnishes his possibilities of one day being successful Khamenei at the peak of power, experts state.

Charged by critics of human rights abuses extending back years – accusations his protectors reject – Raisi was designated by Khamenei to the prominent job of judiciary chief in 2019.

Later on that year, Raisi headed the legal system as authorities utilized the courts to reduce the bloodiest political discontent considering that the 1979 Islamic transformation. Iran states its legal system is independent and not affected by political interests.

“Raisi is a pillar of a system that jails, tortures, and kills people for daring to criticize state policies,” stated Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of New York-based advocacy group the Center for Person Rights in Iran (CHRI), in a declaration.

Iran rejects it abuses detainees.

A mid-ranking figure in the hierarchy of Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim clergy, Raisi has actually been a senior judiciary authorities for the majority of his profession. He acted as deputy head of the judiciary for ten years, prior to being designated prosecutor-general in 2014.


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Acquiring a credibility as a feared security hawk, he was among 4 judges who supervise executions of countless political detainees in 1988, rights groups state. Amnesty International has actually put the number performed at around 5,000, stating in a 2018 report that “the real number could be higher.”


The CHRI stated that those performed were “buried in unmarked mass and individual graves, based on the committee’s determination of their ‘loyalty’ to the newly established Islamic Republic. These prisoners had already been tried and were serving their issued prison sentences.”

Iran has never ever acknowledged the mass executions. Nevertheless, some clerics have stated the trials of the detainees were reasonable, and those judges included ought to be rewarded for removing the armed opposition in the transformation’s early years. Raisi himself has never publicly addressed allegations about his role.

In 2020, U.N. human rights experts called for accountability over the 1988 deaths, warning “the situation may amount to crimes against humanity” if the Iranian government continued to refuse to hold responsible those involved.

The United States imposed sanctions on Raisi in 2019 for human rights violations, including the 1980s executions and his part in the suppression of unrest in 2009.

Raisi, who lost to pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani in 2017, offered no detailed political or economic program during his election campaign, while wooing lower-income Iranians by promising to ease unemployment.


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However, by promising not to “waste a single moment” in removing U.S. sanctions, Raisi signaled his support for talks with world powers aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal.

A Raisi presidency will strengthen Khamenei’s hand at home, and rights activists fear it could usher in more repression.

“He would not have registered as a candidate if his chances were not all but certain, and Raisi’s decision to register would have almost certainly been guided by Khamenei himself,” stated Kasra Aarabi, a senior analyst on Iran & Shia Islamist Extremism at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.


With the rejection of prominent moderate and conservative candidates by a hardline vetting body, voters had a choice only between hardliners and low-key moderates in the election. Turnout was, as expected, a record low amid rising anger over economic hardship and curbs on personal freedoms.

“By taking its exclusionary strategies to a new height, the Guardian Council has left no space for surprise,” said Ali Vaez, senior adviser at the International Crisis Group.

An election win would increase Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader upon founder of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1989 death, analysts said before Friday’s vote.

“Raisi is someone that Khamenei trusts … Raisi can protect the supreme leader’s legacy,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Program.


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Born in 1960 to a religious family in Iran’s holy Shi’ite Muslim city of Mashhad, Raisi was active in the 1979 transformation that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah and continues to proclaim his fidelity to the “fundamental values” of Khamenei.

“The deep state is willing to go as far as undermining one of its pillars of legitimacy to ensure that Ayatollah Khamenei’s vision for the revolution’s future survives him when Raisi takes over the Supreme Leader’s mantle,” said Vaez.

Vaez was referring to the republican pillar of Iran’s dual system of clerical and republican rule. Critics say the hardline election body’s rejection of leading moderate and conservative hopefuls to enter the election race has cleared the way for tyranny, a charge Iranian authorities deny.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by William Maclean and Frances Kerry)


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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.