Nine members of the European Parliament sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, blasting the decision to send a senior EU diplomat to Tehran for last week’s inauguration of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
“Sending such senior representation to the inauguration of a president with such a dark record, at this sensitive time, contradicts European commitments to uphold and stand up for human rights,” wrote the MEPs.
The parliamentarians called Raisi’s electoral victory in June “a sham election,” and decried his “appalling record of personal responsibility for the most heinous of human rights abuses.”
Borrell sent the EU point man on the Vienna nuclear talks, Enrique Mora, to the ceremony.
“It is hardly fitting to honor President Raisi’s inauguration with the presence of one of the EU’s most senior diplomats,” they wrote. “It seems even more incongruous, given Mr. Mora’s senior role in coordinating the nuclear talks in Vienna. His presence risks giving the impression that the EU’s overwhelming concern is the nuclear agreement, to the point of ignoring severe Iranian human rights abuses. While mass protests against the regime are taking place across Iran, the EU comes across as ignoring the voice of the Iranian people.”
“We need to have a discussion about how to deal with Iran in the future,” Swedish MEP David Lega, who initiated the letter, told The Times of Israel. “Their cyber-warfare, their complete disrespect for human rights domestically, but also the security threat they pose to a lot of countries around them, not least of all Israel.”
Dispatching Mora to Iran “sends the completely wrong signal to Iran,” said Lega, speaking from Sweden.
Lega, a retired Paralympic swimmer who holds multiple world records, said the next step would be to see how Borrell answers the letter and to raise the issue among colleagues on the EU Committee on Foreign Affairs.
He added that it was too early to try to block EU decisions on Iran, and that the letter was instead seeking to spark a more serious discussion on EU policy toward Iran.
“If we mean what we are saying about European values about human rights, about respect for the rule of law, we also need to show that by our actions,” he emphasized.
Prior to the inauguration ceremony, Israel’s Foreign Ministry called the EU decision to send Mora a “shameful” display of “poor judgment.”
The ultraconservative Raisi, 60, was inaugurated by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last Tuesday and sworn in before parliament two days later.
The decision “is puzzling and shows poor judgment,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
“The participation of the EU representative in the ceremony comes just a few days after Iran killed two civilians, one of whom was from an EU member state, in an act of state terrorism against civilian shipping,” it said.
Israel, Britain, and the United States have blamed Iran for a recent attack on an oil tanker off Oman. The strike killed a British security guard and a Romanian crew member. The ship was operated by Zodiac Maritime, which is owned by an Israeli billionaire.
Israel also condemned the EU’s participation, “in light of the fact that the new Iranian president has the blood of thousands of Iranian citizens on his hands” and said the move lends “legitimacy to the attack [on the oil tanker] and the aggressive policy of the ayatollahs’ regime.”
“Flattery and subservience to violent totalitarian regimes only invites more violence and aggression,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
Raisi is on a blacklist of Iranian officials sanctioned by Washington, due to his complicity in the “brutal crackdown” on protests and “extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.”
Amnesty International has accused Raisi of having played a key role as a prosecutor on the “death commission” that sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths in 1988, described as a crime against humanity by the rights group.
A UN official tasked with investigating human rights in Iran backed last month an independent probe into the role of Raisi in the mass state-ordered executions.
The cleric, a former student of Khamenei, is seen by many Iran observers as the Islamic Republic’s most “compatible” president with the supreme leader since Khamenei took the role in 1989.