Iran judiciary chief stages first campaign rally despite virus

SourceArab News

TEHRAN: Iran’s leading presidential candidate staged a mass rally in the country’s southeast that drew thousands of supporters, sparking controversy on Thursday as the first such gathering amid the raging coronavirus pandemic that has largely halted traditional election campaigning. Iran’s confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed the 3 million mark on Thursday. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief, toured the oil-rich southwestern Khuzestan province and addressed some 5,000 supporters at a sprawling football stadium in the city of Ahvaz late on Wednesday.

Despite the rising infection count and scorching temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius, roaring crowds mobbed the stadium to hear Raisi speak. Although government officials claimed the city’s event was held in “full compliance” with coronavirus measures, there were no signs of social distancing on the field. Some supporters wore masks while others did not. Criticism of the rally for presenting a public health threat flooded social media and even reached the highest levels of government — backlash that forced more...