The man known in his own country as “Ayatollah Massacre” tried to justify the 1988 mass killing of political prisoners in his first interview with a Western country since taking office.
Ebrahim Raisi is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly. In an interview with CBS News that aired on Monday, the President of Iran did not deny his role in the systematic execution of thousands of detainees after the Iran-Iraq war.
Asked by presented Leslie Stahl if he regretted having sat as a prosecutor on the Tehran “death panel”, a kangaroo court which sent an untold number to their deaths in Evin and Gohardasht Prisons that summer, Raisi said they were “terrorists”.
He added: “They were assassinating people and what happened to them was exactly proportionate to what they did.”
A protest against Raisi’s presence at the summit given his record of human rights abuses took place outside the UN headquarters in New York on Monday.
Raisi, who is due to give a speech at the UNGA, told Stahl he did not intend to meet or speak with US President Joe Biden during the visit as he did not expect it to be “beneficial”.
During the interview he was also asked whether he believed six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. He answered: “There are some signs that it happened. If so, they should allow it to be investigated and researched.”
In Raisi’s absence on Monday Iran entered a fourth night of pro-democracy protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by the so-called “morality patrol” over her hijab.
Ahead of CBS News’s interview with Raisi in America, Lesley Stahl said, she was told “how to dress, not to sit down before he does, and not to interrupt him”.