Raisi, who has been in the UAE’s police force since 1980 and is an inspector general at the country’s interior ministry, won 68.9% of the vote at the Interpol general assembly in Istanbul. The role is largely ceremonial – he will chair the general assembly as well as three executive committee meetings for each of his four years in office.
The vote took place despite criminal proceedings brought by former detainees. Matthew Hedges, who was detained in the United Arab Emirates for seven months, filed a claim for damages in the High Court in London against Raisi and several other senior Emirati officials. He accused them of assault, torture and forcible confinement.
Hedges returned to the UK in November 2018 after being pardoned from a life sentence for espionage. The UAE had posted a video showing him apparently confessing to being a member of UK intelligence agency MI6.
“Raisi’s inevitable election as Interpol president is a serious attack on the values he stands for,” Hedges said in a tweet Thursday. “Its complicity in torture and systematic abuse is legitimized by Interpol and gives the green light to other authoritarian states to act without impunity.”
The UAE has denied allegations that Hedges suffered physical or psychological abuse while in detention.
Hedges said this week that he and another ex-detainee, Ali Issa Ahmad, also filed a criminal complaint with Turkish prosecutors. Ahmad, 29, said he was arrested in 2019 while on vacation in the United Arab Emirates for wearing a T-shirt with a Qatari flag, during the diplomatic row between the two countries. He said he was shocked and beaten, as well as deprived of food, water and sleep.
Ahmad was in the country to attend the Asian Cup.
The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement that “any legal complaint that may be filed with allegations against al-Raisi is without merit and will be dismissed.”
“He firmly believes that the abuse or mistreatment of people by the police is heinous and intolerable,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Raisi pledged to build a “more transparent, diverse and decisive” Interpol.
“I am delighted to have been elected president today, and it is the honor of my career to serve the citizens of the world on behalf of the United Arab Emirates,” Raisi said in a statement.
The elections were postponed for a year due to the pandemic. In October 2020, 19 human rights groups criticized Raisi’s candidacy for the presidency of Interpol, saying his presidency “would jeopardize both the mission and the reputation of Interpol and seriously affect the capacity of the organization. to carry out its mission effectively and in good faith ”.