A prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and former political prisoner, Nasrin Sotoudeh, has strongly criticized the candidacy of Ebrahim Raisi in May’s presidential election.
“The competency of this candidate should not be approved for any reason until the events of 1988 are investigated and it is proven that he was not an accomplice,” said Sotoudeh to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “In the meantime, we do have an audio file…that shows he did have a hand in those events.”
Raisi was part of a four-man commission that implemented the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. A letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court in 2016, over 100 Iranians living outside of Iran, asked for the recognition of Iran’s prison massacre of 1998 as a crime against humanity.
“We, the undersigned, consider the 1988 massacre of Iranian political prisoners to be a clear case of crime against humanity. We urge the international human rights organizations and the United Nations Human Rights Council to condemn the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic hostility to the civil and political rights of its citizens,” states the letter.
Last year, an audio recording was released of a meeting between Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, then heir apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini, and a group of high-level state officials and clerics who orchestrated the mass executions and later became known as the “Death Committee”.
“I believe this is the greatest crime committed in the Islamic Republic since the  revolution and history will condemn us for it…History will write you down as criminals,” said Montazeri to members of that committee on the recording. His son was the one who released the audio recording, and was sentenced to six years in prison by the Special Court for the Clergy for releasing the audio file. Raisi was the chief prosecutor of the court at the time of Montazeri’s conviction, although he didn’t personally prosecute him.
“When you add it all up, [Raisi’s] resume looks very bad…If the veracity of existing evidence is not discredited and his innocence is not proven, we cannot pretend nothing happened and allow this man to be a candidate for president,” said Sotoudeh.
One of the points on his resume is the Special Court for the Clergy. “The Special Court for the Clergy is much worse than the Revolutionary Court in violating legal tenants,” Sotoudeh told CHRI. “Deliberations in the Special Court for the Clergy are often behind closed doors.
She also noted that the rulings happen behind closed doors and defendents usually receive a stiffer sentence. Additionally, only certain lawyers are accepted by the Special Court of the Clergy. They have to be a member of the Muslim Shia clergy and are handpicked by the court itself.
Raisi’s resume clearly shows that his presidency would not be a dramatic shift from the oppressive reality of the Iranian regime.