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As Iranian leader Raisi addresses UN General Assembly, dissidents call for pressure on regime

New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, and dissidents calling for a free and secular Iran are urging the international community not to let the opportunity to put pressure on the despot pass them by – and are calling for him to be prosecuted.

Raisi, a hardline former judiciary chief tied to mass executions of dissidents in the 1980’s, was elected earlier this year in an election dogged by low turnout and accusations of rigging by the ayatollah. 

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Sept. 21, 2021: A protest outside the U.N. against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. (OIAC)

Raisi had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2019, citing reports that, under Raisi, the judiciary had approved the execution of child offenders and arrested lawyers for defending political prisoners and human rights defenders.

Dissidents have zeroed in on his role in a “death commission” that ordered the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Estimates for how many were killed range from 5,000 to 30,000.

The Biden administration has promised to hold the regime accountable for human rights abuses, but dissidents have been dismayed by the lack of action from the U.N. in particular on the matter.

In a letter to President Biden, ahead of his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, more than 400 Iranian-American scholars urged the president to call for Raisi to stand trial before an international tribunal for his role in the 1988 mass execution of dissidents.

“Furthermore, we kindly ask that you echo, in your own address to the Assembly, the Iranian people’s rejection of the Iranian regime, as evident in the unprecedented boycott of Iran’s sham election, and the nationwide and continued uprisings of the Iranian people who seek a democratic, secular and nonnuclear Republic of Iran,” they say in the letter, obtained by Fox.

That was joined by a similar call from more than 160 former political prisoners and their relatives to Biden, who urged the administration to hold Raisi accountable. 

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. on Monday, the Organization of Iranian-American Communities held a conference to make similar calls. Speakers included former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who told attendees that he stood with them in their cause to have Raisi prosecuted at a tribunal.

“He should be prosecuted, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, but we should prosecute him now,” he said to applause.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, dissidents were rallying outside the U.N. General Assembly in New York City to urge the body and the international community to act against Raisi.

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The State Department has condemned the election of Raisi, calling it “pre-manufactured” and has promised to hold him accountable.

“We will continue to hold the relevant Iranians accountable for the human rights abuses that take place under their jurisdiction or on their watch,” Spokesman Ned Price said over the summer. “The new president will be accountable for gross violations of human rights on his watch going forward.”

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But pressure on Raisi is being balanced with ongoing talks to bring back both the U.S. and Iran to the Iran nuclear deal, from which the U.S. departed in 2018. Raisi said shortly after being elected that he would not meet with President Biden, at least until sanctions were removed.

However, a bipartisan consensus has emerged on the issue of a free Iran in Washington, marking a rare diversion from the often partisan split in Congress.

In July, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz, Kevin McCarthy, Rick Scott and Thom Tillis, alongside Democrat Sens. Cory Booker, Bob Menendez and Maggie Hassan all took part in the “Free Iran World Summit” — which called for a free Iran.

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