The next Iranian president is very likely to be Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi, according to former vice-president of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal-Quadras, writing before the final list of names on the ballot paper is decided.

Raisi, who is supposedly the favoured candidate of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after being backed by him in the 2017 elections and being appointed to his current position by him in 2019, is guilty of crimes against humanity for his role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. Even if he loses or pulls out, his rise shows that the regime feels immune to the consequences of this brutal act.

What happened in 1988 and how was Raisi involved?

On the fatwa of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, the Iranian regime formed death commissions all across the country that would hold show trials for any member or supporter of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) already in jail and send them to the gallows. Those who refused to publicly denounce the MEK and turn on their allies were killed almost immediately and en-masse, with their bodies taken for secret burial in mass graves. Many of the graves have since been built over to destroy the evidence, like the recent plans to attack Tehran’s Khavaran Cemetery.

Raisi sat on the Tehran death commission, sending thousands to their death, and was called the “henchman of 1988” in recent protests because of his actions

Vidal-Quadras wrote: “Of course, it is not just his unique culpability that makes Raisi’s prosecution so urgent; it is also the fact that his ongoing ascendance through the regime’s hierarchy is a prime example of the impunity that is driving the regime’s destruction of mass graves, its refusal to answer questions about the history of the massacre and its overall trend of human rights abuses – a trend that has only worsened in recent years.”

The international community’s failure to hold the regime to account for the massacre has led to a place where the perpetrators are rewarded for the brutality with cushy positions, including both the current and former Justice Ministers. It’s also why the regime felt comfortable killed 1,500 protesters during the November 2019 uprising and keeping thousands more under arrest and torture to this day.

Vidal-Quadras wrote: “By putting forth one of the leading perpetrators of the 1988 massacre as the prime candidate for the presidency, it is sending the message that the entire regime runs on that same philosophy.”