Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has appointed a hard-line cleric sanctioned by the West as the new chief of the judiciary, replacing President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, who was voted in last month.
Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, gave the position to Raisi's deputy, 64-year-old hard-line cleric Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, urging him to promote justice and fight corruption, state agency IRNA reported on July 1.
In a decree, Khamenei praised Ejehi's “valuable experience, shining records, and legal competence.”
Ejehi, who had earlier worked as prosecutor-general and intelligence minister, takes over a judiciary blasted by rights groups for its record of being one of the world’s top executioners, as well as conducting closed-door trials of dual nationals and individuals with Western ties.
The conservative cleric has been on the U.S. Treasury Department and European Union's sanctions lists over allegations of severe human rights abuses linked to the disputed 2009 reelection of former hard-line populist President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, when Ejehi was intelligence minister.
That election was denounced as rigged by the reformist opposition, sparking massive “Green Movement” protests and a harsh crackdown in which thousands of people were detained and dozens were killed.
Raisi, a hard-liner who held the position from 2019, won the June 18 presidential election and is to replace moderate Hassan Rohani next month.
Raisi, a protege of Khamenei, has also been under U.S. sanctions in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners, as well as over his tenure at the judiciary.
Khamenei has the power under Iranian law to appoint judiciary chiefs as well as many other ranking officials, including military commanders.
Raisi said after his election victory that he backs discussions to revive the 2015 landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers that lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for commitments to limit and monitor its nuclear program.