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Hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi has taken a big lead in Iran’s presidential election and his rivals have conceded defeat, according to state TV.

Mr Raisi has taken an unassailable lead in the election, winning 17.8 million votes, an interior ministry official said.

His closest rival, Mohsen Rezaei, a senior conservative general, won just 3.3 million votes, while the sole reformist candidate, Abdolnaser Hemmati, a former central bank governor, took 2.4 million votes.

Mr Raisi’s victory means hardliners will have full control over all branches of government in Iran for the first time in almost a decade, after ultraconservatives took a majority in last year’s parliamentary elections.

Mr Raisi, a 60-year-old Shi’ite cleric who is subject to US sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, had been widely tipped to win the contest, in large part due to the support he had from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently said Iran would abide by the agreement if the US and other countries did
Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani will vacate the position in August

And on Saturday, Mr Raisi’s only moderate rival congratulated him.

“I hope your administration, under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will make the Islamic Republic proud, improve livelihood and ensure the nation’s wellbeing and welfare,” Mr Hemmati was quoted as saying in a letter.

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In a televised speech, outgoing president Hassan Rouhani congratulated “the people’s elected (president)”, without naming him.

“Because it has not been officially announced yet, I will delay the official congratulations. But it is clear who received the votes,” Mr Rouhani said.

Iran’s president is the second highest ranking official in the country, after the supreme leader.

Mr Raisi is a harsh critic of the West and has presented himself as the best candidate to fight corruption and improve Iran’s economic problems.

A supporter of Ebrahim Raisi holds a poster of him during an rally in Tehran
A supporter of Ebrahim Raisi holds a poster of him during a rally in Tehran

The election was held at a crucial time for the republic and the region – with US President Joe Biden’s administration seeking to ease tensions in the Middle East, which were inflamed by former president Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear accord and impose sanctions on Iran in 2018.

Mr Raisi remains committed to continuing negotiations with the deal’s remaining signatories – the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

But he previously said domestic policies would be his key priority, notably reviving an economy crippled by US sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Raisi is considered a potential candidate for replace Mr Khamenei, who served as president twice before being appointed in Iran’s most powerful position.

Mr Raisi lost in his previous run for president in 2017, but was this time boosted by the support from the supreme leader and a lack of choice of other candidates.

A hardline election body, the Guardian Council, barred moderate and conservative candidates from standing in the elections.

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Afghanistan: Three British men being held in Taliban custody – including ‘danger tourist’ who returned after army evacuation




Afghanistan: Three British men being held in Taliban custody - including 'danger tourist' who returned after army evacuation

Three British men are being held in Taliban custody in Afghanistan – including so-called “danger tourist” Miles Routledge who returned to the country after being evacuated by British armed forces less than two years ago.

The other two men are charity medic Kevin Cornwell and another unnamed UK national who manages a hotel in Kabul. They are believed to have been held by Taliban secret police since January.

A Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spokesperson said: “We are working hard to secure consular contact with British nationals detained in Afghanistan and we are supporting families.”

Mr Routledge, 23, has gained fame – and attracted controversy – by travelling to dangerous countries and posting about it online.

In August 2021 he was on a “holiday” in Afghanistan when he was caught up in the chaos in the capital as the Taliban took control of the country.

He chose the war-torn country having looked up a list of the most dangerous places to visit in the world, despite the Taliban taking control of more and more of the country at the time.

Mr Routledge thanked the British Army after he was among those evacuated during the Kabul airlift.

He appears to have returned to the country since then.

Kevin Cornwell
Kevin Cornwell has been held since January

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Mr Cornwell, 53, was arrested at his hotel by officers from the Taliban’s General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI) on 11 January.

He is accused of having an illegal firearm in the safe in his room, but his family say he had been granted a licence for the firearm.

The FCDO continues to advise UK citizens against all travel to Afghanistan based on the security risks involved, including the possibility of detention by the Taliban authorities.

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Yoghurt thrown over women in Iran for not covering their hair




Yoghurt thrown over women in Iran for not covering their hair

Two women in Iran who went into a store while not fully covering their hair had yoghurt thrown over them by a man, in an incident captured on video.

CCTV footage showing the “yoghurt attack”, believed to have taken place in the city of Shandiz in northeast Iran, has been spreading on social media.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi insisted that the hijab is the law in the country, in response to the widely shared clip.

It shows a man in a chequered shirt getting increasingly animated as he speaks to one of the women.

He is then seen grabbing a pot of what is believed to be yoghurt and throwing it over the pair before being confronted by another man and pushed out of the store.

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Following the incident, the two women have been arrested for not covering their hair, according to judicial authorities.

The man has also been arrested for insulting the women, public disorder and “unconventional promotion of virtue”.

Authorities said the owner of the dairy shop, who confronted the attacker, had also been warned.

Reports on social media showed his shop had been shut, although he was quoted by a local news agency as saying he had been allowed to reopen and was due to “give explanations” to a court.

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President Raisi said: “If some people say they don’t believe [in the hijab]… it’s good to use persuasion…

“But the important point is that there is a legal requirement… and the hijab is today a legal matter.”

Women in Iran had already been warned by the regime’s judiciary chief that they will be prosecuted “without mercy” if they are seen in public without a veil.

Following protests in recent months, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Saturday: “Unveiling is tantamount to enmity with [our] values.

“Those who commit such anomalous acts will be punished and will be prosecuted without mercy.”

Iran has been rocked by huge waves of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

The 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police.

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Women to be prosecuted ‘without mercy’ for not wearing veils, says Iran’s judiciary chief




Women to be prosecuted 'without mercy' for not wearing veils, says Iran's judiciary chief

Women will be prosecuted “without mercy” if they are seen in public without a veil, Iran’s judiciary chief has warned.

Following protests in recent months, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Saturday: “Unveiling is tantamount to enmity with [our] values.

“Those who commit such anomalous acts will be punished and will be prosecuted without mercy.”

He did not specify what the punishment would be, but violations of state laws on hijabs have seen people face arrest, fines, imprisonment and even the death sentence.

Women across the country have been refusing to wear their headscarves following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September.

Ms Amini had been arrested for allegedly breaking the law on headscarves and died in police custody.

Mahsa Amini
Mahsa Amini’s death sparked protests in Iran

Nationwide street protests were met with a severe police crackdown.

Human Rights Activists, a group that has been tracking the crackdown from inside Iran, has reported more than 19,700 people being arrested during the demonstrations.

Another group, Iran Human Rights (IHR) estimates that 500 of them, including 70 minors, were killed by the regime.

Previously, Mr Ejei said that 22,000 people arrested during recent protests have now been pardoned.

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Iran protesters speak about punishment

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Iranian women have now moved their fight online, with many posting videos of themselves with their hair and bodies exposed.

Under Iran’s Islamic Sharia law, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures.

Describing the veil as “one of the civilisational foundations of the Iranian nation” and “one of the practical principles of the Islamic Republic,” the interior ministry said in a statement on Thursday that there would be no “retreat or tolerance” on the issue.

The authorities are encouraging people to confront women who break hijab laws – something that has previously seen religious extremists physically attack them in public.

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