Ibrahim Raisi, a former judge responsible for 1988 mass executions in Iran has emerged as one of the most powerful figures of Iranian politics in recent days. A failed hardliner candidate in previous presidential election, Raisi is now considered to be the main contender to replace supreme leader Ali Khamenei in future.
The Islamic Republic leader issued a decree to appoint 58-year-old Raisi as Judiciary head on March 7. He replaced Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani at the end of his legal term, who was accused of power abuse and corruption by Mahmood Ahmadinejad, the former president and a few representatives in the parliament.
Raisi’s appointment met with international human rights organizations’ warnings of further deterioration in Iran’s human rights situation, while Iranian officials have overwhelmingly supported Khamenei’s decision as a cause for “hope and joy”.
On Tuesday, March 12, Raisi was also elected as primary deputy chief of the Assembly of Experts, a clerical council responsible for selecting the supreme leader. He defeated Sadeq Amoli Larijani who ran for the position after leaving Judiciary.
A student of Khamenei, Ibrahim Raisi has been considered as the main contender for supreme leadership since a few years ago, especially when he ran his unsuccessful campaign against the incumbent president Hassan Rouhani in 2017.
His past record has caused serious concerns among Iranian and international activist and human rights defenders. “It’s disturbing and frankly frightening that Ibrahim Raisi will be overseeing justice and accountability in Iran,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Raisi should be investigated for grave crimes, rather than investigating them.”
Raisi was Tehran’s deputy prosecutor-general in 1988, part of a four-member committee that decided on the execution of political prisoners, most serving limited jail terms, in that year’s summer. According to human rights organizations, around 5,000 prisoners were killed during those sham trials.