Iran dissidents, ex-detainees to sue President Raisi for abuses ahead of NYC visit

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A group of Iranian dissidents and former detainees said on Thursday they were launching a federal civil case in the Southern District of New York against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi ahead of his visit to the US to attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

“The complaint will allege violations of the Torture Victim Protection Act and torture, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, and false imprisonment,” Iranian-American non-profit group National Union for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI) said.

The plaintiffs include former Shiraz City Councilor Mehdi Hajati, Australian academic and former detainee Kylie Moore-Gilbert, and Belgian-based Iranian dissident and former detainee Hamid Babaei, said NUFDI.

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On Tuesday, “the legal team, plaintiffs, additional victims of Ebrahim Raisi’s crimes and leading experts and activists will host a press conference to discuss the lawsuit in full detail and describe Mr Raisi’s crimes the day before his address to the UN General Assembly,” the advocacy group said.

Raisi’s name is tied to the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners in Iran, at which point he was allegedly the leading member of a group that came to be known as the “death committee,” a group of Iranian judiciary and intelligence officials put together by then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini to oversee the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners at the time.

Rights groups estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed.

There have also been renewed calls for the US to not grant Raisi a visa to attend the UN General Assembly following the death of Mahsa Amini on Friday.

Amini, 22, had recently traveled from Iran’s Kurdistan province to the capital Tehran to visit relatives when she was arrested by Iran’s morality police, known as “Gasht-e Ershad,” for “improper hijab” – that is, not fully covering her hair.

She fell into a coma shortly after being arrested and allegedly “beaten” by Iran’s morality police and was declared dead on Friday.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan wrote on Twitter that Amini’s death was “unforgivable,” adding: “We will continue to hold Iranian officials accountable for such human right abuses.”

Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), wrote in response to Sullivan: “Strong condemnation from @JakeSullivan46. Now refuse a visa to the mass-murdering Raisi to attend UNGA to demonstrate how the US holds regime officials ‘accountable’.”

Kaveh Shahrooz, an Iranian-Canadian lawyer and human rights activist, said that Raisi was responsible for Amini’s death, and called on the US to refuse him a visa.

“A key man responsible for the #MahsaAmini murder (also directly responsible for murder of thousands in 1988) will soon head to NYC to speak at #UNGA77,” Shahrooz wrote on Twitter.

“If there was ever a time for the US to refuse a visa and for the UN to express revulsion, it’s now.”

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