The Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has rushed to defend the country's former Chief-Justice, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, who has been accused of sheltering corrupt aides in his administration.
In unprecedented remarks, Khamenei has strongly supported Amoli Larijani, praising him as a "virtuous" personality, far from financial corruption.
Ali Khamenei went even further, calling his protege "the initiator" of the anti-corruption campaign "within" and "beyond" Iran's Judiciary.
Khamenei’s defense of Larijani is seen as a signal to current judicial officials and hardliners to leave him alone and critics see this as selective justice and a manipulation of the campaign against corruption.
After years of rumors about serious corruption in Iran’s powerful Judiciary, Larijani’s former deputy, Akbar Tabari was arrested in July 2019 for large-scale financial and legal misdeeds. Questions arose if Larijani himself was aware his men were breaking the law or even if he was part of the illegal schemes.
Khamenei was speaking through a video conference June 27 with top judicial officials. Referring to the trial of Akbar Tabari, Khamenei called on pious followers not to attack former “virtuous” leaders of the Judiciary, in a clear reference to Larijani.
Implicitly referring to questions raised about the former chief justice, Khamenei warned "faithful youth" to refrain from "aggressive" moves against Amoli Larijani.
According to the Islamic Republic Constitution, the head of the Judiciary is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, and many see Khamenei’s defense of Larijani as a defense of his own record.
Larijani was replaced by a hardliner cleric, Ebrahim Raeesi, in early 2019 but did not completely fall from grace. He and his brothers for years have held key positions in the country, and he was considered a possible successor to Khamenei.
However, Raeesi is also considered a strong candidate to be anointed Supreme Leader and his position now is much stronger than Larijani, who needs Khamenei’s personal intervention to stay out of legal troubles.