TEHRAN: Iran’s ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi plans to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly next month despite US sanctions against him, the government’s spokesman said on Tuesday.
“The preliminary planning has been done for the president’s attendance at the UN General Assembly session,” Ali Bahadori-Jahromi told a weekly press briefing.
Raisi, who has been under US sanctions since November 2019 for “complicity in serious human rights violations,” missed last year’s General Assembly because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A pre-recorded video of his address was played to the meeting instead.
When Washington added his name to its blacklist of Iranian officials, Raisi was still judiciary chief. He became president in June 2021.
Washington accuses him of playing a leading role in mass executions of detained leftists in 1988 while he was chief prosecutor of the Tehran revolutionary court.
Raisi has denied the allegations on two occasions — in 2018 and 2020 — insisting he played no role in the executions, although he lauded an order he said was handed down by the Islamic republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to proceed with the purge.
The General Assembly opens in New York on Sept. 13.
Iran arrested several members of the Baha’i faith on spying charges, authorities said, the latest sign of a tightening crackdown across the Islamic Republic as it faces international pressure over its tattered nuclear deal. The Baha’i demanded their release and called their arrests part of a long pattern of persecution by Iran’s Shiite theocracy.
Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said in a statement that the suspects were linked to the Baha’i center in Israel and had collected and transferred information there.
The Baha’i’s international governing body, the Universal House of Justice, long has been based in Haifa, Israel. The Baha’i have had a presence there since before the founding of the state of Israel, which Tehran views as its chief enemy in the region.
Iran offered no evidence to support the allegations of the Baha’i doing anything illegal. State TV footage showed one of the suspects saying he was being monitored by agents of the ministry, though he did not acknowledge in the footage doing anything wrong.
The Baha’i through an international advocacy group identified several of those arrested as leaders in their religion who previously served 10-year prison sentences.
They are “domestic symbols of resilience and internationally renowned former prisoners of conscience,” the Baha’i said. “Arresting them reveals the Iranian government’s escalating persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.”
The Baha’i say they’ve been persecuted by Shiite clerics in Iran since their religion’s founding — something that’s grown more intense since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.