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Activists Lambast Khamenei For Appointing Controversial Judge

The new head of Iran's Judiciary, Ibrahim Raeesi, 2019.

More than 100 Iranian civil and political activists have described the appointment of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raeesi as Iran's Judiciary Chief a sign of Islamic Republic Leader Ali Khamenei's obstinacy and lack of respect for public opinion.

The activists, mainly based abroad, characterized Khamenei's behavior as "rewarding criminals, aggravating the sad condition of the family members of the victims" of mass murders in Iranian prisons in 1988, and "yet another example of the Islamic Republic's leader ignoring public opinion in Iran and abroad."

The opposition website Zeitoun that has published the activists' statement said Khamenei has prioritized the intentions of the ruling minority over Iran's national interests.

Raeesi (Raeisi) is accused of involvement in mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988, although he has denied his involvement saying that he was a prosecutor in the case, not a judge.

However, signatories to the statement say that late Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri had clearly said that Raeesi was a "criminal."

Raeesi who was appointed as head of the Iranian Judiciary last week, has been sanctioned by EU for violation of human rights as a member of the board that handed death sentences to political prisoners in 1988.

The activists in their statement noted that although the regime has tried to conceal the mass murder for decades, Raeesi's appointment brought about an opportunity for fact-finding by a jury as broad-based as all Iranians.

The signatories to the statement are affiliated with various political groups from across the political spectrum of Iranian opposition.

Earlier, U.S. Vice-Secretary of State Robert Paladino had termed Raeesi's appointment "shameful".

On the other hand, some 200 members of the Iranian Parliament including reformist, conservative and independent figures welcomed Raeesi's appointment as Chief Justice, following supportive articles in Iran's reformist press.

President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Raeesi on his appointment and praised his “managerial skills” and noted Khamenei's trust in the new Judiciary Chief. Raeesi was Rouhani's main rival in the 2017 Presidential elections. Rouhani mentioned Raeesi's bad record during election campaigns and said: "The people will not vote for those whose only skills during the past 38 years were execution and imprisonment."

Meanwhile, some reformist figures in Iran are hopeful that Raeesi's appointment as Judiciary Chief will entail "positive changes."

Raeesi, 57, is said to be one of the contestants for the post of Supreme Leader in post-Khamenei Iran.

Raeesi is the son-in-law of powerful hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the Friday Prayer leader of Mashad and Khamenei's representative in Khorasan Province.

He started his religious studies at the Islamic Seminary of Qom at the age of 15 and continued his studies at the highly regarded Motahari Seminary in Tehran.

Raeesi started his career in 1979 and before 1994 served as prosecutor in several Iranian cities including Karaj, Hamedan and Tehran. He later served as the head of the State Inspectorate Organisation, first deputy head of the judiciary and as prosecutor-general of Iran until 2016 when he was put in charge of the holy shrine, Astan-e Qods.

He won nearly 40 percent of the votes in the 2017 presidential elections. Around 16 million Iranians voted for him, although election results in Iran are not very reliable.