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Iran's Judiciary Chief Sacks Hard-Line Prosecutor

Said Mortazavi (right) will be replaced as Tehran prosecutor by Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi (left).
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's new judiciary chief has replaced a hard-line prosecutor who played a key role in the mass trials of leading reformers arrested over unrest that erupted after a disputed presidential election in June.

The move by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani is likely to be welcomed by moderates who also blame Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi for shutting down many pro-reform newspapers during his time in office.

But it was unclear whether it would have any impact on the trials of more than 100 senior pro-reform figures, activists, and others charged with inciting postelection protests. Four such mass trials have been held in a Tehran court this month.

The official IRNA news agency, in a report late on August 29, said Mortazavi had been replaced by Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as Tehran's public prosecutor.

It did not give a reason for the decision by Larijani, who took office earlier this month. Judiciary sources had told Reuters that Larijani had made Mortazavi's replacement a condition for accepting the judiciary chief post.

"Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has been appointed as new Tehran public and revolutionary prosecutor," IRNA said, citing Larijani's public relations office.

IRNA said Larijani had also formed a "supervisory board" to look into postelection events, including detainees' rights. Defeated presidential candidates have said some imprisoned protesters were raped, a charge rejected by the authorities.

Larijani is a brother of parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who ran against hard-line President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.

Defeated candidates say this year's presidential vote, in which Ahmadinejad won reelection for a second four-year term, was rigged. The authorities reject the accusation.

The election and its turbulent aftermath have plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and exposed deepening establishment divisions.

Indictments, Canadian Photographer

Mortazavi signed the indictments against dozens of pro-reform figures put on trial accused of inciting protests in a bid to topple the Islamic establishment after the election.

The opposition and the West have condemned the mass trials, in which a French teaching assistant was also in the dock.

No sentences have so far been announced in the trials.

Ahmadinejad on August 28 called for the prosecution and punishment of the leaders of postelection unrest. He faces a test of his hold on power on August 30 as Iran's parliament debates and votes on his proposed new cabinet.

Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, and activists, have been detained since the election. Many are still in jail.

Business daily "Sarmayeh" said that according to some estimates "Mortazavi closed down 120 publications during his activities." It did not say whether this was during his six years as Tehran prosecutor or also when he held other posts.

Canada has said Mortazavi was implicated in the death of a Canadian photographer, Zahra Kazemi, six years ago. Kazemi, who held dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship, died in detention in 2003 after being arrested outside a Tehran prison.