Latest News 21-05-2024 09:10 11 Views

State Department offers condolences for death of Iran’s president in ‘baffling’ move, human rights lawyer says

The State Department offered its condolences Monday after the deaths of two Iranian leaders, including the Islamic Republic's president, a 'baffling' move considering Iran's well-known human rights abuses, a human rights lawyer says.

In a statement, the agency expressed 'its official condolences for the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, and other members of their delegation in a helicopter crash in northwest Iran.'

'As Iran selects a new president, we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms,' agency spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Raisi and Amirabdollahian were killed Sunday after their helicopter crashed in the Dizmar Forest in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province on Sunday. Raisi was returning to Tehran after traveling to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, said the crash killed eight people, including three crew members aboard the Bell helicopter, which Iran purchased in the early 2000s.

Raisi was nicknamed the 'Butcher of Tehran' for his oversight of mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, which forced Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to install interim leadership for Iran's executive branch.

'He's been responsible for the incarceration, torture, rape and murder of tens of thousands of people over the last few decades,' Gerard Filitti, senior counsel with the Lawfare Project, which provides pro bono legal services to protect the civil and human rights of Jewish people worldwide, told Fox News Digital. 'Raisi is not a man who will be missed.'

'While it is understandable for the State Department to issue condolences when there is the death of a foreign head of state, it's baffling that someone who has such an atrocious record of violating human rights, supporting global terrorism, targeting the United States and allies, is someone who is receiving this outpouring of condolences, effectively from the United States government,' he added. 

Fox News Digital has reached out to the State Department for further comment but has not yet heard back.

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania's minister of foreign affairs, said condolences to Raisi would be inappropriate given Tehran's alliance with Russia.

'I don't feel comfortable sending condolences while Iran is sending drones that are used against civilians in Ukraine,' he wrote on social media.

Iran, an Islamic theocracy, has long cracked down on dissent from its citizens and has been known for its human rights abuses, including jailing people for dancing, social media activity and women who break the country's strict dress code. 

'There's no secret that Iran violates human rights. It's a matter of its practice to rule according to its interpretation of religious law, and that leaves little room for what we understand as civil rights or human rights in the western democratic context,' Filitti said. 

He noted that the Biden administration has embarked on a strategy of trying to appease Tehran with regard to nuclear deal negotiations and freeing up billions of dollars that Iran uses to conduct terror attacks and abuse its citizens.

'It's really troubling that now we're seeing, effectively, a continuation of that. Both in offering condolences for the loss of Raisi, but mostly likely, continuing to work with the next regime on the same failed strategy of appeasement,' said Filitti.

The United Nations Security Council also honored Raisi on Monday with a moment of silence. The observation came after a request from Russia, China and Algeria, Iran's Permanent Mission to the U.N. said. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller was asked by a reporter during a press briefing why the U.S. participated in the moment of silence for Raisi at the U.N. meeting. 

'We have been quite clear that Ebrahim Raisi was a brutal participant in the repression of the Iranian people for nearly four decades. He was involved in numerous horrific human rights abuses, including playing a key role in the extrajudicial killing of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Some of the worst human rights abuses occurred during his tenure as president, especially the human rights abuses against the women and girls of Iran,' Miller explained. 'That said, we regret any loss of life. We don't want to see anyone die in a helicopter crash. But that doesn't change the reality of his record, both as a judge and as the president of Iran.'

'The Iranian government & people express gratitude for the UNSC's condolences & solidarity,' the mission posted on X. 

U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black also acknowledged Raisi's death during his invocation. 

'And Lord, we pray for the Iranian people who mourn the death of their president,' he said.


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