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Raeesi Elected First Deputy Of Council That Chooses Iran's Supreme Leader

Newly appointed Iranian new judiciary chief ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raeesi attends a session of Iran's influential Assembly of Experts in Tehran, March 12, 2019

Iran’s newly appointed head of all-powerful Judiciary has also been elected as deputy chairman of the Assembly of Experts, which elects the Supreme Leader in Iran.

Ebrahim Raeesi (Raeisi) was elected on Monday with 43 votes out of 78 members present, defeating the former head of the Judiciary, ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani and Fazel Golpaygani, Mehr news agency reported on Tuesday.

There have been rumors for months that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been grooming Raeesi to succeed him. His recent appointment as chief judge reinforced those rumors.

The Assembly of Experts was designed in the Iranian constitution as an institution to elect the Supreme Leader and supervise him. But Khamenei has packed the assembly with loyalists who say the Leader does not need any checks and balances.

Raeesi’s appointment to the Judiciary was a controversial decision because of his membership in a judicial committee that decided on the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. Human rights organizations estimate that more than 5,000 prisoners, most serving jail terms, were killed. He is on the list of individuals sanctioned by the European Union.

In the light of his controversial record, it came as a surprise that Iran’s reformists immediately praised the appointment, saying that Raeesi’s “judicial experience” makes him a suitable incumbent.

Concurrent with his appointment as head of Judiciary the previously mid-ranking cleric is now being labelled an “ayatollah” in local media, which gives him a higher religious ranking.