Ebrahim Raisi
Ebrahim RaisiReuters

Iran's new President, Ebrahim Raisi, on Sunday named the chairman of a powerful state-owned foundation sanctioned by the United States as his first vice-president, AFP reported, citing the president's official website.

Mohammad Mokhber, long rumored by local media to be top pick for the position, has for years headed the foundation known as Setad, or the Execution of Imam Khomeini's order.

Mokhber was appointed to the position by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2007, following a string of official positions at the southwestern province of Khuzestan, according to AFP.

The Setad was originally founded in the late 1980s to manage confiscated properties following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It has since turned into a sprawling conglomerate with stakes in various industries, including health, and its Barekat Foundation produced out Iran's first local COVID-19 vaccine project.

AFP noted that the Setad and Mokhber were both blacklisted by the US Treasury in January. Washington said that Setad "has a stake in nearly every sector of the Iranian economy, including energy, telecommunications, and financial services."

Raisi, 60, was sworn in as President of Iran on Thursday, following his landslide victory in an election in June.

He has come under fire his role in a series of mass executions in 1988 – executions which led some to call Raisi the “Butcher of Tehran”. Some 5,000 people were killed in the executions, which critics calling a purging of political prisoners.

Raisi was a member of a so-called “death panel” which sentenced prisoners to death during the mass executions. When asked recently about his past actions, he claimed that he is a “defender of human rights”.

The UN investigator on human rights in Iran recently called for an independent inquiry into allegations of the state-ordered executions in Iran and the role played by Raisi.