Ebrahim Raisi: Hardline conservative

Mr Ebrahim Raisi has focused his campaign on the poor, pledging to triple cash handouts.
Mr Ebrahim Raisi has focused his campaign on the poor, pledging to triple cash handouts.

TEHERAN • Mr Ebrahim Raisi is a hardline judge with close ties to the supreme leader, and has spent years in powerful backroom positions.

Born in the holy city of Mashhad on Aug 23, 1960, he wears the black turban of a "seyed" whose genealogy is said to lead back to Prophet Muhammad. His father died when he was five, and he entered the seminary at an early age, excelling in his studies.

He has focused his campaign on the poor, brandishing his credentials as head of the Imam Reza shrine, which is also a powerful and wealthy charitable foundation as well as a business conglomerate.

"I represent the workers, the farmers, the impoverished women," he says, vowing to triple cash handouts. It is a message that has fallen on fertile ground at a time when unemployment is at least 12.5 per cent.

There is little chance Mr Raisi will ease social restrictions or release opposition leaders held under house arrest since the 2009 protest movement. He does not oppose the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015, but says the current government's negotiating efforts are "weak". He has called for a much tougher line "in the face of the enemy".

He is entrenched in the conservative establishment, having served as attorney-general, supervisor of state broadcaster IRIB and prosecutor in the Special Court for Clerics.

His father-in-law leads Friday prayers in Mashhad, and both have seats on the Assembly of Experts that will choose the next supreme leader - a position for which Mr Raisi himself is often rumoured to be in the running.

After the 1979 revolution, he was selected for special training by the clerical establishment and studied under Mr Ali Khamenei, who would later become supreme leader.

In 1985, during the Iran-Iraq War, he became deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Teheran that would oversee the execution of thousands of political prisoners.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2017, with the headline 'Ebrahim Raisi: Hardline conservative'. Print Edition | Subscribe