Front-runner for Iran presidency is hardline judge sanctioned by US

The Nation  |  Jun 16, 2021

TEHRAN - Ebrahim Raisi’s record of fierce loyalty to Iran’s ruling clerics helps explain why the senior judge is a front-runner in Friday’s presidential election, a contest the authorities have limited almost exclusively to hardline candidates like him.

A win for Raisi, 60, an implacable critic of the West whose political patron is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would burnish his chances of one day succeeding Khamenei at the pinnacle of power, analysts say.

Accused by critics of human rights abuses stretching back decades -- allegations his defenders deny -- Raisi was appointed by Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019.

Later that year, Raisi headed the legal system as authorities used the courts to suppress the bloodiest political unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution. 

Iran says its legal system is independent and not influenced by political interests.

“Raisi is a pillar of a system that jails, tortures, and kills people for daring to criticize state policies,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director of New York-based advocacy group the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), in a statement.

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Iran denies it tortures prisoners. A mid-ranking figure in the hierarchy of Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim clergy, Raisi has been a senior judiciary official for most of his career. 

He served as deputy head of the judiciary for 10 years, before being appointed prosecutor-general in 2014.

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