DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Monday that voters in next week’s presidential election do not want someone who is only familiar with “execution and imprisonment,” an apparent criticism of a hard-line rival who is a longtime judge.
The semi-official ISNA news agency says Rouhani did not name any of his five election rivals in the campaign speech, but appeared to be referring to Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Rouhani is running for re-election as a moderate who will push for improved relations with the West and greater freedoms within Iran. His administration struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, but his push for expanded liberties has been fiercely resisted by hard-liners, who dominate Iran’s judiciary and security services.
In the same campaign speech, Rouhani offered rare, if veiled, criticism of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, saying those who use “public funds and money that is given for the security of the people” should not spread “hopelessness.” The Guard is believed to support Raisi.
He also referred to a charitable foundation managed by Raisi, which controls large endowments and business conglomerates, asking whether it had ever paid taxes.
On Sunday, Raisi had said the charity was exempt from paying taxes by order of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution and its first supreme leader. Raisi said that what the charity provides to the poor is equivalent to four times the amount of taxes it would pay.
The election will be held May 19.