A conservative cleric who was involved in extra-judicial killings of political prisoners in the late 1980s in Iran did not deny reports that he might be appointed to head the Islamic Republic’s all-powerful Judiciary.
Ebrahim Raisi (pronounced ra-isi) who ran against current president Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 presidential elections is considered a person who is trusted by the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran’s judicial branch of government is directly under the control of the Supreme Leader and acts as a bulwark against critics and opponents of the regime, not hesitating to arrest activists and journalists, conduct closed-door trials and hand out long prison terms.
When asked by Khabar Online news website about reports of his impending appointment, Raisi answered, “Ask those who have published the news”.
Khamenei last week appointed the current head of the Judiciary as the chairman of a powerful conservative watchdog and his seat at the judicial branch is now open.
The head of the Judiciary is appointed directly by the Supreme Leader for a five-year term, which can be renewed. The current chief judge, Ayatollah Amoli Larijani who is moving to his new job, is already nearing the end of his second five-year term.
Raisi has had a long tenure himself as a judge and that is when he was involved in decisions related to the mass murder of political opponents in prisons in 1988.
Apart from his record as a judge, he is seen as a conservative, even a hardliner politician who ran in the presidential elections and some critics argue that he cannot head the Judiciary as a disinterested person. He clearly belongs to one faction in the Islamic Republic politics.
Khamenei appointed him as the Superintendent of the Holy Shrine in Mashad, a lucrative and powerful position, which he still holds. Raisi’s father-in-law, a notoriously hardline ayatollah himself, is the Friday Prayer Leader of the city.
Surprisingly, a senior advisor to Rouhani has voiced support for Rais’s possible appointment, praising him as an experienced judge and manager.