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Iran’s hardliner in front row for presidential spot

Ebrahim Raisi’s record of fierce loyalty to Iran’s ruling clerics helps explain why the chief judge is a frontrunner in Friday’s presidential election, a contest that authorities have limited almost exclusively to hardline candidates. As the.

A victory for Raisi, 60, a relentless critic of the West whose political patron is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would improve his chances of one day succeeding Khamenei at the top of power, analysts say.

Accused by critics of human rights abuses dating back decades, allegations his defenders deny, Khamenei appointed Raisi to the high-profile post of chief judiciary in 2019.

Later that year, Raisi spearheaded the legal system as authorities used the courts to suppress the bloodiest political unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Iran says its legal system is independent and not influenced by political interests.

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

Iran denies that it tortured the prisoners.

A middle-ranking figure in the hierarchy of Iran’s Shiite Muslim clergy, Raisi has been a senior judicial official for most of his career. He served as deputy chief of the judiciary for 10 years, before being appointed attorney general in 2014.

Gaining a reputation as a feared security hawk, he was one of four judges who oversaw the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, human rights groups say. Amnesty International has put the number of those executed at around 5,000 and said in a 2018 report that “the actual number could be higher.”


The CHRI said those executed 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 imposed prison terms. “

Iran has never recognized mass executions. However, some clergymen have said that the trials of the prisoners were fair and that the judges involved should be rewarded for eliminating the armed opposition in the early years of the revolution. Raisi himself has never publicly addressed the allegations about his role.

In 2020, UN human rights experts called for accountability for the 1988 killings, warning that “the situation may constitute crimes against humanity” if the Iranian government continues to refuse to detain those involved.

In 2019, the United States sanctioned Raisi for human rights violations, including executions in the 1980s and his involvement in suppressing the riots in 2009.

Raisi, who lost to pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani in 2017, has not offered any detailed political or economic programs during his election campaign, while courting low-income Iranians by promising to ease unemployment.

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

A Raisi presidency would strengthen Khamenei’s hand at home, and rights activists fear it could lead to further repression.

“He would not have registered as a candidate if his chances were not certain, and Raisi’s decision to apply would have almost certainly been guided by Khamenei himself,” said Kasra Aarabi, senior analyst on Iran and Shiite Islamist extremism at Tony. Blair Institute for Global Change.


With the rejection of prominent moderate and conservative candidates by a hard-line investigative body, voters will only be able to choose between hard-liners and low-key moderates in the elections.

Turnout is expected to be a record low amid mounting anger over economic hardship and restrictions on personal freedoms.

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

An electoral victory could increase Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei, who served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader following the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of the Islamic Revolution in 1989, analysts say.

“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.

Born in 1960 into a religious family in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Mashhad, Raisi was active in the 1979 revolution that toppled the US-backed Shah and continues to proclaim his allegiance to Khamenei’s “core values.”

“The deep state is willing to go so far as to undermine one of its pillars of legitimacy to ensure that Ayatollah Khamenei’s vision for the future of the revolution will survive him when Raisi assumes command of the Supreme Leader,” Vaez said.

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

Source: News Logic

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