Ebrahim Raisi is one of the six candidates approved by the Iranian Guardian Council to stand in Iran’s presidential election on May 19th. He is seen as the answer to current President Hassan Rouhani’s economy policies that focus on foreign investment, versus a more self-reliant economic path for Iran. His policies also seem to align him more with the Supreme Leader, making Rouhani’s position more precarious than previously.
Still there are those who argue that Raisi’s candidacy was out of line, based on his history of human rights violations, including his role on the death committee. Those critics are being answered by videos that have begun to appear online, defending Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, primarily those of the PMOI.
The videos were recently published without clear indications of who or what organization produced them. However, some have been posted by Raisi’s official campaign page on the Telegram messaging application, which is widely used in Iran.
The head of Iran’s wealthy Astan Quds Razavi religious and business conglomerate, Raisi is seen as the main rival to Rouhani. In 1988, as the deputy prosecutor of Tehran, Raisi was appointed by the founder of the Islamic Republic, the late Ruhollah Khomeini, to the “Death Committee”, which implemented the executions of thousands of political prisoners who had already been tried and sentenced.
His candidacy has made these extrajudicial executions of 1988 become an issue during a presidential election in Iran. Civil rights activists and human rights groups have been publicly criticizing him for his role in the massacre.
His official campaign page on Telegram released a three-minute video entitled “Wolves” on April 11, justifying the executions. The video claimed the victims were executed because they were all members of the outlawed opposition group, the MEK, which launched armed attacks against Iran in the 1980s. According to historical and personal accounts, the prisoners were executed based on their answers to questions about their political and religious beliefs during one meeting with the committee that was assigned to them.
It is important to note that the prisoners had no access to legal representation and they were not informed that they were facing death prior to their meeting with the committee. There was no due process for these prisoners, many who had already been tried and sentenced for other crimes. The group included men, women and minors.
Others argue that Raisi’s support from the ruling elite to run for president is preventing justice for those who were executed in 1988.
“To see he’s a candidate for president is very bitter for someone like me, who was a prisoner in the summer of 1988,” said Monireh Baradaran, who now lives in Germany. “Raisi is someone who was clearly and directly involved in crimes and is a thorn in the eyes of those who seek justice. But the entire ruling establishment is preventing justice.”