The spokesperson for Iran’s Judiciary has confirmed that hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a judge during the 1988 execution of thousands of political prisoners, will be Iran’s next Chief Justice.
He will be replacing Sadeq Amoli Larijani, also a cleric.
Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told Iranian media on Sunday that he would continue to work with the Judiciary under Raisi.
According to Yahya Kamalipour, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s judiciary committee, Raisi will be officially introduced as Iran’s Chief of Judiciary on Thursday March 7.
The 57 year old cleric was a contestant in Iran’s 2017 presidential elections.
Raisi was the custodian and chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi, a wealthy and powerful foundation or bonyad in Mashhad.
Raisi has served in several positions in Iran’s judicial system, such as Attorney General from 2014 to 2016, and Deputy Chief Justice from 2004 to 2014. He was also Prosecutor and Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ebrahim Raisi is the son-in-law of Mashhad Friday prayer leader and Grand Imam of Imam Reza shrine, Ahmad Alamolhoda, a hardliner known for his controversial and sometimes ridiculous sermons.
Born in the northeastern city of Mashhad in 1960, Raisi started his religious education at the Qom Seminary at age 15.
After the 1979 revolution, which brought Khomeini’s Islamic Republic to power, the 18 year old cleric quickly pulled up in the ranks of the regime’s suppressive organizations such as the “Revolutionary Court” known for handing down heavy sentences to dissidents.
According to the state-run Astan News, he was sent to work with the Revolutionary Court in the southern town of Masjed Soleiman in the beginning of the revolution to handle the “Marxist” problem in the south. After successfully handling the “problem”, he was appointed as Deputy Prosecutor in Karaj at the age of 19, where he was mostly in charge of carrying out interrogations. Raisi was then appointed as the Karaj Prosecutor at the age of 20. After a few months, he also become the Prosecutor of Hamedan. He held the position until 1984 when he was appointed as the Prosecutor of the Central Revolutionary Court.
During that time, the Central Prosecutors Office had three departments which included the Economic Department, the Narcotics Trafficking Department and a department known as “Grouplets” charged with suppressing dissident groups. Raisi, who was 24 at the time was appointed as the head of the “Grouplet” Department.
It was in this position that he actively played a part in the “Death Committee” responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.
1988 execution of thousands of political prisoners
Feeling threatened by the dissent against his absolute rule, less than 10 years into the Islamic revolution, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a religious decree, known as the “death decree” to execute all political prisoners.
The late Hussein-Ali Montazeri, once Khomeini’s successor who was put aside after disagreements with Khomeini over the “death decree”, named Raisi as one of the four persons in the “death committee” tasked by Khomeini to determine the fate of thousands of political prisoners, mostly members of the PMOI.
Khomeini decreed that “as the treacherous Monafeqin [PMOI] do not believe in Islam and what they say is out of deception and hypocrisy… it is decreed that those who are in prisons throughout the country and remain steadfast in their support for the Monafeqin [PMOI], are waging war on God and are condemned to execution”.
“It is naive to show mercy to those who wage war on God”, he wrote.
Addressing the Death Committee, he wrote, “Those who are making the decisions must not hesitate, nor show any doubt or be concerned with details”.
“They must try to be most ferocious against infidels. To have doubts about the judicial matters of revolutionary Islam is to ignore the pure blood of martyrs”, the old cleric wrote in the fatwa.
Ebrahim Raisi who was introduced into the regime’s suppressive institutions at the age of 18, was now involved in the bloodiest massacre of dissidents in Iran’s recent history at the age of 28.
According to some of the prisoners who survived the executions, Raisi walked around in the prison without his religious cloak and turban “seeing to” matters related to the executions.
Raisi won over Khomeini for his “outstanding work” in the mass executions and was then placed in a special two member committee charged with speeding up the passing of inhumane sentences in order to maintain the atmosphere of total suppression in Iran.
Khomeini tasked Raisi along with another cleric, Nayeri, to issue hand and leg amputations and other sentences, “free from administrative complications”.
Custodian of Khamenei’s slush fund
Ebrahim Raisi was also the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, a massive business corporation with a real-estate portfolio worth an estimated $20 billion, which effectively functions as a slush fund for Iran’s supreme leader. Raisi helped generate the funds that enable Tehran to suppress dissent at home and export terror abroad.
The charity was originally established to supposedly help the needy and “provide financial grants” to poverty-stricken citizens.
According to a recent report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies the endowment presides over more than 100 businesses in a variety of fields, including car manufacturing, agriculture, financial services, construction, and oil and gas, many of which conduct business overseas. It also controls the border between Iran and Turkmenistan, a special economic zone for trade with central Asia.
The Astan Quds Razavi – Farsi for “the holy belongings of Imam Reza” – manages the Imam Reza Shrine, a vast complex in Mashhad that includes the world’s largest mosque by area, a library, and other religious institutions devoted to the memory of the eighth Shiite imam. Some 25 to 30 million pilgrims visit the shrine annually, making Mashhad the country’s most popular tourist attraction. Astan Quds Razavi also owns nearly half of the land in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city.
The FDD report, titled “Profiles of Iranian Repression”, which was published on October 29 said that the endowment received no oversight by any other government body, undermining any attempt to determine its full size and impact.
This report was initially published on March 5, 2019.