Unofficial reports in Iran are hinting at the possible appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as the likely successor to the late Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s position as head of the Expediency Council, a powerful body, which is intended to resolve disputes between the Iranian parliament and the Guardian Council. Rafsanjani died of a heart attack on Sunday 8thJanuary. Although relatively unknown in the West, the 56 year-old Raisi was a key member of the “Death Commission” that in the summer of 1988, oversaw the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members of the opposition People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI). Raisi is known to be a close ally of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whose endorsement will be essential for him to assume this role. He has even been tipped as a possible successor to Khamenei. Raisi is currently the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, a charity organization in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine.

If appointed as head of the Expediency Council, Raisi will be the second member of the ‘Death Commission’ to achieve a key post in the oppressive Iranian regime’s ruling administration. Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, the leader of the ‘Death Commission’, is today Iran’s Justice Minister, appointed by the so-called ‘moderate’ President Hassan Rouhani. In his three years in office President Rouhani has presided over a horrific record of arbitrary arrest, torture and execution. More than 3000 people have been hanged since he took office, with over 20 executed so far this year. Hangings and floggings are often carried out in city squares and football stadiums as a warning against anyone inclined to oppose the theocratic regime. 

However, the summary execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners in Iran during the summer of 1988 was an atrocity that must surely rank as one of the most horrific crimes against humanity of the late twentieth century. The mass executions, in jails across Iran, were carried out on the basis of a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, the psychotic and murderous Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The ‘Death Commission’, which included Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, approved all the death sentences. Kangaroo courts were set up in Tehran and in cities across Iran and PMOI political prisoners were hauled in front of a Sharia judge who demanded to know if they supported the Mojahedin. Those who defiantly said yes were sentenced to immediate execution. These sham trials took on average 2 minutes. It was estimated that 30,000 political prisoners were hanged from cranes in batches of ten, every fifteen minutes from dawn to dusk between August & December 1988. 

The truth about this horrific genocide was only revealed on August 9thlast year when the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, the former Deputy Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and the nominated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, published a previously unknown audio-tape in which Montazeri acknowledged that the massacre had taken place and had been ordered at the highest levels. In the electrifying tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the ‘Death Committee’ in 1988 that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He says: “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”Because of his forthright protests, the Grand Ayatollah was dismissed as the heir to the Supreme Leader by Khomeini and placed under house arrest until his death in 2009. Montazeri’s son has now been sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for revealing the audiotape. Pour-Mohammadi has since admitted his role in the ‘Death Commission’ and boasted that he was proud to “carry out God’s will.”

When Donald Trump enters the White House later this month, he and his new Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cannot allow this grisly crime to go unpunished, particularly when they know that the murderers are not only still alive, but in positions of powerinside Iran? Ruthless killers like Raisi and Pour-Mohammadi must be held to account and indicted for crimes against humanity.