Iranian Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi has announced his candidacy for the presidential election in June to much controversy.
In a statement carried by local media, he said: “I have come as an independent to the stage to make changes in the executive management of the country and to fight poverty, corruption, humiliation and discrimination.”
So, who is Raisi and why is him running for President so controversial?
Raisi was appointed to his post in 2019 by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, quickly becoming one of the most powerful people in the country and a leading succeeder for Khamenei. Raisi already ran for president in 2017, after Khamenei threw his weight behind him, but ultimately incumbent Hassan Rouhani stayed in power.
But Raisi is best-known for his role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners when he served on the Death Commission and sentenced hundreds to their deaths. His record has not improved since.
Some 620 people have been executed in Iran since Raisi became Judiciary Chief, many of those from ethnic minority groups or penalised for non-violent crimes, because how else would Iran have the greatest number of executions per capita?
Of those executed during Raisi’s tenure, at least 22 were political prisoners, including Abdol-Basset Dahani, Naser Khafajian, Ghassem Abdullah, Ali Khasraji, Hassan Dehvari, Hossein Silawi, Elias Qalandarzehi, Abdolhamid Mir-Baluchzehi, Hedayat Abdollahpour, Hamid Rastbala, Abdullah Karmollah Chab, Navid Afkari, Mostafa Salimi, Javid Dehghan, Mostafa Salehi, Ruhollah Zam, Omid Mahmoudzehi, Kabir Sa’adat Jahani, Diako Rasoulzadeh, Mohammad Ali Arayesh, and Saber Sheikh Abdollah.
Many of those executed, as well as those that continue to be held in prison, have been subjected to torture, including physical assaults, food and water deprivation, sexual humiliation, denial of medical care, prolonged interrogation, solitary confinement, painful stress positions, and verbal abuse, to obtain false confessions.
Even those who escape execution can experience degrading punishments banned by international law, like flogging and amputation, including several protesters. They are also suffering from horrific prison conditions that violate their human rights because of not just the tortures listed above, but also because of a lack of sanitary conditions during a pandemic and the refusal to separate political prisoners from violent ones.
Iran Human Rights Monitor in this regard wrote: “After the appointment of the murderer Judge Ebrahim Raisi as the head of the Judiciary, dozens of peaceful rights activists and dissidents were sentenced to harsh prison sentences and even execution for peacefully using their right to freedom of expression.”