A German government official and an Iranian opposition group say a top Iranian cleric under investigation in Germany for alleged crimes against humanity has left the country, Reuters reports.
The news agency quoted an unidentified German government official as saying in the afternoon of January 11 that Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahrudi was aboard an Iran-bound plane.
Javad Dabiran, a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the exiled opposition group saw Shahrudi leave the hospital in the northern city of Hannover where he was receiving treatment. Dabiran said the cleric later departed from Hamburg airport on an Iran Air flight.
Two complaints were filed earlier this week in Germany against Shahrudi, who is accused of committing crimes against humanity during his decade at the helm of Iran's judiciary.
One complaint was made by former Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck and the other by the NCRI, which also urged Berlin to prevent the cleric from leaving Germany.
The office of Germany's federal prosecutor said on January 10 that it was continuing to investigate whether to bring charges against the cleric, regardless of whether he leaves the country or not.
Shahrudi, who has been the target of protests and sharp criticism during his stay at a neurological treatment center in Hannover, has not publicly commented on the accusations against him.
The mass-circulation Bild daily's front-page headline on January 8 read: "Death Judge In Iran, Luxury Patient In Germany."
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said on January 8 that Shahrudi sought treatment in Germany for a "serious illness" and that his request was granted after "credible health reasons" were given.
Shahrudi headed Iran's judiciary from 1999 to 2009. Amnesty International said that during that time, he carried out more than 2,000 executions, including of adolescents, while overseeing the torture of prisoners and arrests of political and human rights activists.
A coalition of Iranian human rights groups said it provided the German government with evidence Shahrudi "was responsible for the Islamic Revolutionary Courts that sent numerous human rights activists, defense lawyers, journalists, webloggers, political dissidents, and religious minorities to Iran’s notorious prisons, where they were subject to torture, rape, and murder."
The coalition quoted Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human-rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as saying “Shahrudi is directly responsible for the appointment of judges and prosecutors who have been responsible for persecutions and systematic violations of fundamental human rights. He must be held accountable.”
Shahrudi currently is a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, which can pick and dismiss the supreme leader. He also heads the Expediency Council, a body that is intended to resolve disputes between Iran's parliament and the Guardians Council, a constitutional watchdog.
Shahrudi was a student of Iran's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and is viewed as a strict disciple of current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
With reporting by Reuters and Bild