The supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei as the country’s new head of justice.
In his credentials to the new Chief Justice, Khamenei advised his election to fight corruption and uphold the rule of law and justice after describing the cleric as a man of “deep understanding and a brilliant record.”
Under Article 157 According to the theocratic constitution of Iran, the unelected supreme leader directly appoints the head of justice, one of the three powers alongside the executive and parliament. Since the same laws require the chief of justice to be a clergyman, the post has been held by relentless hardliners near Khamenei for the past three decades.
The Iranian judiciary has long been accused of violating the law and for many Iranians it represents an institution that is characterized by a lack of transparency and plagued by internal corruption. Mahmoud Shahroudi declared when he was appointed Chief Justice in 1999 that he had inherited an institution in ruins.
Perhaps what sets Mohseni Ejei apart from his predecessors is his repeated movements between the judiciary and the secret service apparatus. As an interrogator in the first years after the Iranian revolution of 1979 and later as a representative of the judiciary in the Ministry of Intelligence, Mohseni Ejei is closely involved in the mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s as well as the so-called “Chain attackâIranian dissident and intellectual in the late 1990s.
In 2005, Mohseni Ejei was appointed Minister of Intelligence of Iran, a post he held for four years prior to his promotion to Attorney General. His move between the two key positions coincided with the action taken by the Islamic Republic against the Protests after the 2009 election 2009. Hundreds were killed and thousands put behind bars in the riots, many of whom screened confessions in mass trials as the ruling establishment stood ready to crush a young Green movement. Mohseni Ejei’s role in state-led enforcement resulted in his being listed as an infringer on separate blacklists issued by by European Union and the US Treasury Department.
In 2004, the clergyman became known as “the Biting Judge” after expressing intolerance of criticism by violently attacking a senior citizen and leaving a bite mark on the shoulder Reformist journalist during a weekly meeting.
The figure of a man who is known for his inflammatory speeches and his blatant disregard for the freedom of the press is already causing shudders to run down the spine of members of Iranian civil society who share their experiences with the ultra-conservative judge via social media platforms.
âThat would be a step backwards,â wrote the legal activist and lawyer Ali Mojtahedzadeh before the official appointment as he hoped the rumors were untrue. “As we continue to struggle with crises on a daily basis, the replacement of a bad chief judge with a worse one is hardly less than a surprise,” tweeted another lawyer based in Tehran.
The appointment of Mohseni Ejei also marked another step towards further tightening the grip of the hardliners in Iran. All three branches of the Islamic Republic establishment now have full control over the mencrowned by the supreme leader of the country.