Iran's President 'Reveled' Being on Death Commission: Survivor

As Iran issues its first death sentences over the recent protests, one of the survivors of the country's 1988 massacre recalled the pleasure Ebrahim Raisi took in his position as part of the "death commission" that oversaw the executions of political prisoners.

Last year, former political prisoner Mahmoud Royaei penned an op-ed published by CNN that marked the 33rd anniversary of the day Raisi, who was then a deputy prosecutor of Tehran and a key member of the 1988 death commission, decided Royaei's fate.

Writing about being in the room with Raisi that day, Royaei remembered how the now-president "clearly reveled in having power over life and death, and he wielded it freely in thousands of cases during that summer's massacre of political prisoners."

Over the summer of 1998, thousands of political dissidents were killed by Iranian officials acting on the order of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the then-supreme leader who died in 1989. Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions and recent events have sparked calls for the United Nations to open an investigation into the killings and Raisi's role. He is currently under U.S. sanctions for his alleged involvement.

Raisi Iran Executions Protests
Above, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a rally outside the former U.S. embassy in Tehran on November 4, 2022. Former political prisoner Mahmoud Royaei recalled Raisi's role in the "death commissions" of the 1988 massacres in an op-ed published last year. Getty Images

"I was a political prisoner in the middle of serving my 10-year sentence when I first met Raisi, like thousands of other friends and fellow sympathizers of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), a political opposition group. I was there to hear Raisi decide my fate," Royaei wrote in the piece published on August 3, 2021.

Royaei, who was charged for disseminating the organization's message, said that although he was not executed that day because he "did not outwardly defend the organization as strongly as those who were executed," Raisi chose a different fate for others, like his friend Abbas Afghan.

Royaei initially penned the op-ed on the day Raisi took office following the 2021 Iranian presidential election, which many claimed was rigged in the hardline politician's favor. The former political prisoner warned other world leaders from embracing Raisi as the next leader of Iran.

"For those who have dealt with him personally, Raisi symbolizes the death of hope," Royaei wrote. "His 'election' has been widely described as being rigged and orchestrated by Supreme Leader Khamenei, who undoubtedly chose Raisi because their dark vision for the country is similar."

Iran has faced unprecedented levels of nationwide protest over the last two months in response to the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini. Amini was arrested in Tehran by the country's "morality police" for supposedly wearing the "improper" form of hijab, and subsequently died while in custody.

On Tuesday, Iran issued the first death sentence in connection to the unrest, finding the defendant guilty of "enmity against God," according to state media. Iran Human Rights, a non-profit organization based in Norway, said that official reports suggest there are at least 20 people facing charges punishable by death. The group said at least 326 protesters have been killed as part of the violent crackdown against the demonstrations.

Newsweek reached out to Raisi's office for comment.