Hard-line cleric tapped to lead Iran’s judiciary

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A hard-line cleric once thought to be a possible successor to Iran’s supreme leader is appointed head of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary today, sparking concern from rights activists over his involvement in the execution of thousands in the 1980s.

Ebrahim Raisi was named to the post in a decree by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the semi-official Fars news agency reports.

Raisi’s selection comes after he was trounced by incumbent Hassan Rouhani in the country’s 2017 presidential election. That loss, as well as other concerns, now have some analysts suggesting the move takes him out of the running to become the next supreme leader to replace Khamenei, who will turn 80 this July.

Speculation that Raisi could be named to the post also had sparked criticism from the US, which under President Donald Trump has withdrawn from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Raisi, “involved in mass executions of political prisoners, was chosen to lead #Iran’s judiciary. What a disgrace!” Robert Palladino, a deputy State Department spokesman, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “The regime makes a mockery of the legal process by allowing unfair trials and inhumane prison conditions. Iranians deserve better!”

Rumors began months ago that Khamenei would appoint Raisi, 58. He will replace Sadegh Amoli Larijani, a conservative cleric who is the brother of Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani. Khamenei had appointed Larijani as the head of the country’s Expediency Council, which mediates differences between the country’s Parliament and its Guardian Council, Iran’s constitutional watchdog.

Khamenei has praised Raisi, a former Iranian attorney general, in the past.

— AP

In this photo from May 16, 2017, hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a 2017 presidential election rally in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

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