By Pooya Stone
On Sunday, it was announced that Ebrahim Raisi has been appointed as the Judiciary Chief, replacing Sadeq Amoli Larijani. Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei told Iranian media that Raisi will be officially introduced as Judiciary Chief on Thursday March 7th.
According to Yahya Kamalipour, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s judiciary committee, the head of the Judiciary is appointed directly by the Supreme Leader for a five-year term, which can be renewed. Indeed, the spokesperson for Iran’s Judiciary has confirmed that Raisi is considered a person trusted by the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Raisi has had a long tenure as a judge — in fact, he was involved in decisions related to the infamous massacre of political opponents in 1988. Raisi was a member of Khomeini’s ‘Death Committee’, who sent tens of thousands of political prisoners to the gallows for refusing to denounce their political affiliation. Raisi was instrumental in the extra-judicial killings of political prisoners in the late 1980s in Iran.
Based on a fatwa issued by Khomeini that called for the elimination of all political prisoners who continued to support the opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI or MEK), the Death Committees were formed to hold “hearings” of the prisoners.
Raisi served as Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran at the time, and sat on most of the Death Committee sessions in the capital. He has been identified by survivors as a key decision maker when executions were ordered,
Khomeini’s former deputy and successor, Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who broke with the ruling system and published the text of Khomeini’s hand-written fatwa in his memoires, also named Raisi as a participant.
Raisi is alleged to be close to the Supreme Leader, and has even been named as a possible successor to him. Raisi is also the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the wealthiest charity foundation in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine in Mashhad, northwestern Iran.
During the summer of 1988, the Death Commission handed down some 30,000 death sentences. The court hearings lasted only a few minutes, according to some of the political prisoners who miraculously survived. One question was asked by the judges: Do you still believe in Mojahedin?
An audio tape was leaked by Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri’s son in August 2016. Montazeri was sacked for his public objections to the mass executions. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 2009.
On the tape, Montazeri can be heard telling a meeting of the Death Commission that they are responsible for a crime against humanity. He says, “The greatest crime committed during the reign of the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you. Your names will in the future be etched in the annals of history as criminals.”