The youngest member of the 1988 Tehran death committee, Raisi has been accused of systematically sending as many as 3,000 people to slaughter. When he was head of the judiciary floggings and executions flourished, yet many see this election as a staging post to his becoming supreme leader when Ayatollah Khamenei dies.
Raisi was 28 at the time of the massacres – a Tehran deputy prosecutor who stood in on the death committee for Morteza Eshraghi, Tehran’s chief prosecutor.
Acting under orders from the then supreme leader, an ailing Ayatollah Khomeini, and with the war against Iraq ending in a truculent truce, the committee agreed to eliminate jailed members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) resistance movement on the basis the MEK had self-evidently committed acts of treachery at the end of the war. Any that did not renounce their support for the MEK were doomed.
The scale of the butchery is set out in a 130-page report written by the London-based human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC. “They were hung from cranes four at a time or in groups of six with rope hanging from the front of the stage on an assembly hall.” Others were taken out at night and killed by firing squads. After finishing off the MEK, the revolution went on to devour the communist Tudeh party and Trotskyists.
Raisi’s role as the most junior committee member is disputed. In a lecture in May 2018, he confirmed he was present at the 15 August 1988 meeting when Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri urged the committee to desist, but added: “During the period [in question], I was not the head of the court. The head of the court issues sentences whereas the prosecutor represents the people.”
It was at that meeting that Montazeri said: “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.” An audio file of the meeting which dates to August 1988 was posted on Montazeri’s official website, run by his family and followers, on 9 August 2016, but has since been removed by the ministry of intelligence.
Raisi’s complicity never arose during the three TV debates, and perhaps it concerns few ordinary Iranians, who regard the MEK as terrorists and, judging by the results, are more worried about house prices, and jobs.
Born in Iran’s holy second city of Mashhad, the birthplace of the current supreme leader and relatively close to the border with Turkmenistan, his father died when he was five, and by the time of the 1979 revolution, he was a young seminarian in the holy city of Qom. He was immediately picked to become the prosecutor-general of the city of Karaj, outside Tehran, at the age of only 20, and then moved to Tehran.
Raisi married politically and happily when he met the daughter of Ayatollah Alam al-Hoda, another prominent regime figure from Mashhad. Hoda, a conservative, was throughout the 1980s to the political right of Khamenei, the future supreme leader. His wife, Jamila Alam al-Hoda, is a university professor and lectures on how citizenship education suffers from spiritual poverty.
It has only been in the past decade that Raisi became Khamenei’s favourite son. In March 2016 he appointed him to run Astan Quds Razavi, one of Iran’s oldest and wealthiest religious institutions. In 2017 he was given approval to try to dislodge Hassan Rouhani as president after one term, and although he garnered 15.8m votes, Rouhani secured 57.1% of the vote. Raisi’s appeal to the working class won him only seven provinces, all in the east of Iran closer to his birthplace.
In this election, protected by a phalanx of other conservative candidates, Raisi made few specific commitments about how he would create a strong economy, or improve housing, stressing his fight against corruption including in the judiciary. But his period as head of the judiciary has not been marked by reform, despite promises.
Throughout the campaign he tried to soften his image. “I have tasted poverty not merely heard about it,” he said. His daughter, Reyhaneh Sadat Raisi, went on one TV chatshow to insist her father was a kind man.
He also met leading executives from leading reformist newspapers, some of whom praised him afterwards, prompting resignations. The survival of a semi-free internet in Iran will be one of his early tests.
Source: The Guardian