Iran’s leading presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi once approved the execution of thousands of while serving as a member of a commission tasked with eliminating political prisoners, according to an Iranian human rights group.
Ebrahim Raisi, a favorite among Iran’s radical religious leadership, was part of a four-person panel tasked with eliminating the regime’s political opposition in 1988, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. Anywhere between 3,500 and 15,000 people were executed that year, according to a report by al-Arabiya.
“With Raisi’s candidacy, the regime is sending a clear message that it does not care about crimes against humanity nor does it have any intention to investigate the crimes in 1988, and in fact will install those responsible for the massacre in the highest governmental posts in the country,” Shadi Sadr, an international law expert, told the Center in April.
The 56-year-old Raisi sits on Iran’s Assembly of Experts, a council which assigns the country’s supreme leader. Raisi also serves as the custodian of an important Shiite Muslim shrine, a position he was appointed to by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Some analysts and experts expect incumbent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to win the May 19 election, however, results from a recent poll of Iranian voters showed a slim majority expect him to lose.
Raisi’s candidacy could have major implications on international relations, specifically regarding the Trump administration. Iran’s hardliners were skeptical of Rouhani’s attempts to work with the West, and his subsequent nuclear agreement with the international community. Hardline dominance of the presidency could jeopardize the nuclear deal, and could also lead to further aggressive Iranian policies in the Middle East.
Raisi may have the support of the Khamenei (though he has not officially endorsed him) and other radical conservatives, but he may not be presidential material.
“The man has literally nothing to offer. He’s got no charisma. He’s unknown. He doesn’t speak well. He flopped the first presidential debate,” Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told CNBC in an interview Wednesday.
Add in the allegations regarding his role in executing political prisoners, and Raisi’s chances could be limited.
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