Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 June 2019

Iran names hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi as head of judiciary

He is a protege of Iran's supreme leader and a rival of President Hassan Rouhani

Former Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks to the crowd during an election camping rally in Tehran, Iran, 29 April 2017. EPA
Former Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks to the crowd during an election camping rally in Tehran, Iran, 29 April 2017. EPA

Iran has appointed a hardline cleric who is a major rival of President Hassan Rouhani to lead the country’s judiciary after the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced the decision to install former judge and onetime presidential hopeful Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday.

The appointment of Mr Raisi, 58, a protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, positions him to undermine the influence of moderates under President Hassan Rouhani in Iran's complicated multi-tiered power structure.

"I am appointing you as the head of the judiciary..., as a person who is familiar with the judiciary after years of serving inside the system," Mr Khamenei said in a statement carried by IRNA.

He called on Mr Raisi to be "with the people, the revolution and against corruption" in his new role.

Mr Raisi takes over from Sadegh Amoli Larijani who was in December appointed chairman of the powerful Expediency Council.

Despite Mr Raisi's role in overseeing the execution of political prisoners in the late 1980s, his promotion will make him a contender to succeed Mr Khamenei.

Mr Raisi is a mid-ranking figure in Iran's Shiite Muslim clergy but has been a senior official for decades in the judiciary, which has enforced clerical dominance over the country since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Mr Khamenei appointed Raisi in 2016 as custodian of Astan Qods Razavi, an organisation in charge of a multi-billion-dollar religious foundation that manages donations to Iran's holiest shrine in the northern city of Mashhad.

Mr Raisi, who lost to Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election, had barely reached adulthood by the 1979 revolution but rose quickly through the ranks.

In 1988, he was one of four Sharia (Islamic law) judges behind the mass execution of leftists and other dissidents.

Updated: March 8, 2019 10:10 AM

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