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German Prosecutors Consider Charges Against Top Iranian Cleric

Former Iranian judiciary chief Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi is shown in an undated photo.

Germany's federal prosecutor's office is examining whether to bring charges against a senior Iranian cleric who has been mentioned as a possible future Iranian supreme leader and who is receiving medical treatment in Germany.

A spokesman for the prosecutor's office on January 9 acknowledged receiving a complaint filed against Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi Shahroudi by a former German lawmaker, whose complaint accuses the cleric of committing "crimes against humanity" during his decade overseeing hundreds of executions as the head of Iran's Justice Ministry.

The prosecutor's office did not say how long it would take to determine whether it will act on the complaint from former Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck.

Shahroudi, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has attracted protesters and sharp criticism during his stay at a neurological treatment center in the northern German city of Hanover.

The mass-circulation Bild daily's front-page headline on January 8 read, "Death Judge In Iran, Luxury Patient In Germany."

The Jerusalem Post reported that the prosecutor in the German province of Lower Saxony, where Hanover is located, is also considering whether to pursue a criminal complaint filed against Shahroudi in that jurisdiction.

About 200 demonstrators showed up outside the Hanover hospital where he is saying on January 6 to protest the executions of an estimated 2,000 Iranians that took place while he was Iran's justice minister.

The complaints against him claim he can be prosecuted under German law for alleged crimes committed in Iran. Shahroudi has not publicly commented on the accusations against him.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said on January 8 that Shahroudi had sought treatment in Germany for a "serious illness" and that his request was granted after "credible health reasons" were given.

Bild reported that if the German government determined that Shahroudi, who is currently a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, is considered to be a government office-holder, he might be granted diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

"It would be a big mistake if the federal government provides diplomatic immunity here to the organizer of mass murders through Iran's justice system," Beck told The Jerusalem Post, explaining the reasons behind the complaint he filed against Shahroudi.

"Germany should not be a sanctuary for such people, who in their country persecute people for political or religious reasons and threaten them with death," he said. "The Iranian regime persecutes women who were raped, homosexuals, Baha'is, Kurds, and atheists."

Shahroudi headed Iran's judiciary for 10 years 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.

Shahroudi was a student of Iran's first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and is viewed as a strict disciple of Khamenei.

Besides serving in the Assembly of Experts, Shahroudi currently heads Iran's Expediency Council, which moderates disputes between Iran's parliament and a constitutional watchdog known as the Guardians Council.

Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin, told the Post that "this representative of the Islamic dictatorship shouldn't be on European territory at all," and criminal prosecution was "absolutely the right path to go."

"These human rights violators must learn that they can’t deprive their own citizens of their inalienable rights and then receive luxurious treatment – medical as well as political," Farzan said.

Reinhold Robbe, the former head of the German-Israel Friendship Society, said, "It's a slap in the face to exiled Iranians and others to see such a former leader of the Iranian regime being treated in Germany."

With reporting by Reuters, The Jerusalem Post, and Bild