Iran's former chief justice Ebrahim Raisi became the country's eighth president after winning a controversial election on Saturday. Rights groups say he was involved in the 1988 mass executions.

Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative judge and cleric, was officially declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election on June 19, a widely anticipated result after many political heavyweights were barred from contesting the polls.

Raisi fetched a 62 percent vote share in Friday’s poll, defeating his three main rivals in the race, Interior Minister Aboldreza Rahmani Fazli announced on Saturday.

While Human Rights Watch lashed out at the Iranian political establishment for holding an "unfair election" and paving the way for Raisi to become president, other rights groups dug up his murky past. 

For Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran, Raisi is the henchman of the 1988 massacre

Raisi was among the panel of judges who were involved in ordering mass executions of political prisoners in the summer and fall of 1988. Known as one of the most tragic incidents in Iran’s post-revolution history, the judgements led to the hangings of thousands of prisoners. 

The majority of executed prisoners were supporters of the People's Mujahedin of Iran, which aimed to overthrow the regime at the time, together with supporters of leftist factions.

According to a UN report released in 2017, Iranian government massacred 30,000 political prisoners based on a fatwa by the first Supreme Leader of the Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Under Raisi and other members' leadership, “Death Commissions” were formed across Iran sending political prisoners who refused to abandon their beliefs to execution.

“Weak, crisis-riddled, and rattled by looming uprisings, Khamenei purged all rivals to install Raisi as president, one of the vilest criminals against humanity since World War II," Rajavi said.

However, the Islamic Republic saw a historic low turnout for a presidential election which was  48.8 percent of the more than 59 million eligible voters.

Raisi received 17.92 million votes while former IRGC chief Mohsen Rezai came second with 3.4 million votes, followed by former top banker Abdol-Nasser Hemmati with 2.4 million and former deputy parliament speaker Ghazizadeh Hashemi with around 1 million votes.

While many regional leaders congratulated Raisi’s presidency, however some human rights activists, and political figures raised their objections.

Many regional countries congratulated him by wishing success for his new role.

On the other hand, his becoming the new president of Iran is seen as “ the last chance for world powers to wake up before returning to the nuclear agreement,” by Israel's new prime minister Naftali Bennet.

From the judiciary to Iran's presidency

Prior to his presidential run, Raisi was appointed as Chief Justice of the country in 2019 by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Born in a clerical family in the Noghan district of Mashhad, a place famous for religious pilgrimages, Raisi holds a masters degree in the field of International Private Law and a PhD in "jurisprudence and fundamentals of Islamic law" from Shahid Motahari University.

His religious education in Qom established his clerical credentials, one of the premier places of learning for Shia scholarship, and he was also the student of many famous Shia scholars. 

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, he served as a prosecutor in several cities in Iran. 

In 1981, he started his career by becoming the prosecutor of Karaj, located 20 kilometer west of Tehran. Afterwards, he was also appointed for the same role in Hamadan and carried out his active roles in two cities more than 300 km away from each other.

In 1985, he was appointed deputy prosecutor of Tehran and in 1989, promoted to the post of senior prosecutor in the capital.

The victims were buried in secret mass graves, the report said. 

He had worked as the head of the General Inspection Office in 1994 until he became the first Deputy Chief Justice of Iran in 2004.

In 2014, he was appointed Attorney-General of Iran, a position he held until 2016.

Raisi lost the 2017 presidential election to current President Rouhani as a candidate for  the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces (JAMNA) and supported by other revolutionary factions.

He had pledged to fight against poverty and corruption, however, he lost the election to Rouhani.

With 99.7 percent of ballots counted, Rouhani had 23.5 million votes (57 percent) compared to 15.8 million(38 percent) for Raisi, according to the final results.

However, he did not congratulate Rouhani on his re-election in 2017 and demanded the Guardian Council to check violations before and during the election.

Raisi is seen as one of the clerics trusted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and is also considered a potential successor to him.

Source: TRT World