Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

Iranian cleric Ebrahim Raisi gestures after registering his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections at the ministry of the interior in Tehran on April 14, 2017

Ebrahim Raisi is a hardline judge who spent years in powerful backroom positions before emerging as a leading challenger for Iran's presidential election next month.

Born into a religious family in the holy city of Mashhad on August 23, 1960, Raisi is a "seyed" whose geneology is said to lead back to the Prophet Mohammed.

Raisi's father died when he was five, and he entered the seminary at an early age, excelling in his studies and moving to the seat of clerical learning in Qom in 1975.

After the 1979 revolution, he helped manage the border city of Masjed Suleiman, a hotbed of Marxists, before starting his judicial career in 1981 as a prosecutor in Karaj, and later Hamedan.

In 1985, he became a deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war when thousands of political prisoners were executed.

Raisi spent a decade as head of the Inspection Office from 1993, followed by 10 years as deputy head of the judiciary. In 2006, he was elected to the Assembly of Experts that has powers to choose the next supreme leader, and now sits on its board of directors.

In 2012, he became a prosecutor in the Special Court of Clerics, charged with disciplining the clergy, and spent two years as Iran's nationwide prosecutor-general from 2013 to 2015.

In March 2016, he was appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to head Astan Qods Razavi, a charitable foundation overseeing the Imam Reza shrine, as well as a huge business conglomerate with interests in everything from IT and banking to construction and agriculture.

He is married to the daughter of Mashhad's hardline Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda.