Iranian dissidents and former prisoners, including a Western academic, on Tuesday announced the filing of a civil lawsuit in New York against Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as he attended the UN General Assembly.
The hard-line Islamic Republic’s president is the target of the lawsuit for his role as a judge in the 1980s, when thousands of people in the country were sentenced to death, according to the National Union for Democracy in Iran advocacy group.
The lawsuit had yet to be released by a US federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday evening.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic jailed in Iran from September 2018 to November 2020 on espionage charges, appeared via video at a news conference in New York and painted a harrowing picture of her ordeal behind bars, including a year in solitary confinement.
“I was subjected to a variety of psychological and physical tortures and routinely subjected to cruel, degrading and degrading abuse,” Moore-Gilbert said.
The lawsuit “is a step towards justice and an attempt to help victims regain their dignity,” former inmate Navid Mohebbi told reporters.
“I have seen the worst that this regime and Raisi have done to my countrymen,” Mohebbi added.
The civil lawsuit relies on US laws protecting torture victims.
NUFDI Political Director Cameron Khansarinia said: “The plaintiffs in this case, Iranian dissidents, former Iranian hostages, former Western hostages, are coming together in an unprecedented way to take a step forward for justice.”
He said the dissidents and former prisoners “repeated the screams we hear on the streets of Iran today,” a reference to a deadly crackdown on protests that erupted after the death of young Iranian woman Mahsa Amini after being arrested by morality police was arrested for enforcing restrictions on women’s clothing.
The ad is not the first against Raisi on American soil.
In August, a civil lawsuit filed by another exile group in New York called for US authorities to take action against Raisi ahead of his UN appearance.
According to that file, in 1988 Raisi was a member of the so-called “Death Commission,” four judges who directly ordered thousands of executions and the torture of members of the People’s Mojahedin armed opposition organization of Iran, known as the MEK.
Raisi, who was elected in August 2021, is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
Earlier Tuesday in New York, he met French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he spoke about Tehran’s nuclear program and “respect for women’s rights” following demonstrations in several Iranian cities.