Iran’s theocratic regime paves the way for a hard-line supporter linked to mass executions and human rights abuses to become the country’s next president – as dissidents cry foul over what they see as an election rigged and call for mass boycotts.
Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the Iranian judiciary who lost the 2017 contest to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, is considered the frontrunner to win the June 19 vote.
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Raisi was one of several officials sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2019 for human rights violations. The Treasury Department cited US reports that, under Raisi, the judiciary sanctioned the execution of child delinquents and arrested lawyers for defending political prisoners and human rights defenders.
Raisi previously served as Tehran’s attorney general between 1989 and 1994 as well as the first deputy head of the judiciary between 2004 and 2014. The US government noted his involvement in what he described as a “brutal” crackdown on protesters in the Iranian Green Movement following the 2009 elections.
Dissidents focused on his role in a “death commission” that ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Iranian political prisoners were asked to identify themselves and those who answered “mujahedin” were asked to identify themselves. were sent to their deaths, while others were interrogated. on their desire to “clear minefields for the army of the Islamic Republic”, according to a 1990 Amnesty International report. Estimates of the number of people killed range from 5,000 to 30,000.
When Raisi was appointed head of the judiciary in 2019, then State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino called the movement A shame.”
“Ebrahim Raeesi, involved in mass executions of political prisoners, has been chosen to lead the #Iran justice system. What a shame!” he tweeted. “The regime mocks the judicial process by allowing unfair trials and inhumane conditions of detention. Iranians deserve better!
The president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Maryam Rajavi, described Raisi in a statement as “the henchman of the 1988 massacre” and “one of the worst criminals against humanity in the past. Past 50 years “.
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As with most elections in Iran, the contest has been hampered by accusations that it is rigged for the benefit of Ayatollah’s preferred candidates – in this case, it is Raisi. The Khamenei Guardian Council disqualified a number of candidates who could compete with Raisi, including a number of moderate and reformist candidates. The NCRI called on the Iranians to boycott the elections in protest.
The State Department, in response to a request for comment from Fox News, said on Saturday that Iranians “should be allowed to exercise their right to choose their own leaders in free and fair elections.”
“As senior Iranian officials have themselves noted, the disqualifications of qualified candidates by the Council of Guardians pose a threat to political competition and voter participation,” a spokesperson said.
Rajavi described it as a sign that the regime is in its final stages, as it faces pressure from resistance inside the country and international pressure from outside.
“Khamenei took steps to consolidate the regime and maximize repression by purging presidential candidates who had participated in all of the regime’s crimes over the past 40 years. This is a clear sign of the crisis of regime overthrow and of the final phase of the religious and terrorist struggle. dictatorship, “she said in a statement.
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Raisi has centered his campaign on a strong anti-corruption campaign, promising that corruption will be “dried up” if elected.
Raisi also benefits from public discontent with Rouhani who, as relatively moderate by regime standards at least, has been plagued by protests against human rights violations, a botched handling of the COVID-pandemic. 19 and a “maximum pressure” campaign by the Trump administration that weakened the Iranian economy is only about to expire now with the Biden administration.
An election of Raisi as president could make US and European negotiations with Iran more difficult. The Biden administration has sought to end the “maximum pressure” campaign and reinstate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Negotiations are underway in Vienna to bring both the United States and Iran back into the deal. But NCRI activists have warned that Raisi will continue his policy of repression in his country, as well as use proxies to exert his influence in the region – and have warned nations not to engage with a regime led by Raisi.
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“Any interaction and cooperation with the mullahs’ regime will serve the repression and slaughter of the Iranian people, and their nuclear weapons ambitions, and fuel wars in the region,” Rajavi said.
The State Department told Fox News that its Iranian policy is designed to advance American interests, regardless of Iranian political timetables or who is in power. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.