Iran: New conservative chief justice fires 60 “corrupt” judges

Iran’s new conservative chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, has dismissed 60 judges around the country since May in an “intensified” anti-corruption crackdown, his deputy said in a press conference on Wednesday, according to Al-Monitor.

Raisi, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2017 with 38% of the vote, was appointed to his new position on March 3 by Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

He is known to be a loyal follower of the Supreme Leader. His long and successful career in Iran’s judicial sector–whose highlights include becoming Tehran’s prosecutor general when he was only 29 years old, and his 2014 appointment as Iran’s attorney general–is partly attributedto this relationship.

Raisi is deeply connected to several powerful political bodies, including the Assembly of Experts, which will appoint the country’s next Supreme Leader, and the Special Clerical Court, a body that was originally formed to prosecute “corrupt clerics” but is now widely seen as a “tool that helps [the country’s leadership] control and silence any dissident clergy,” Al Jazeera said.

In 2018, Amnesty International linked Raisi with the “secretive” state-sponsored operation to mass-execute an estimated 4,500-5,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. He was the deputy prosecutor of Tehran at the time, as well as a member of Tehran’s “death commission.” Raisi has not denied this connection.

Prior to and since his appointment to his new chief justice position, there has been abundant speculation that Raisi will be the country’s next Supreme Leader.

Raisi’s “clean-up” of the judiciary reportedly began the moment he was appointed to chief justice, and in an unspecified number of cases these “law-breaking” judges have been fully disbarred.

The move comes at a moment of particular distrust for the Iranian judiciary, which is seen as one of the country’s “most corrupt” institutions. A 2018 World Economic Forum evaluation noted that bribery was frequently used to obtain favorable decisions in Iran.

The former chief justice, Sadeq Larijani, moreover, was alleged to have had 63 personal bank accounts that were being used to embezzle public funds while he held the post.

By contrast, Raisi has recently ordered for the “re-implementation” of a formerly “dormant” constitutional article that requires transparency and “confiscati[on of] illegitimate wealth resulting from usury, usurpation, bribery, embezzlement, theft, gamble, misuse of Islamic government endowments, misuse of government contracts and transactions.”

More concerningly, however, it was made public on Wednesday that Raisi has also granted his deputy the ability to pass down death sentences, which is seen as reflective of his “hard-line” tactics in a country that Amnesty International noted carried out “more than half (51%) of all recorded executions in 2017.”

GAN, a business-focused “anti-corruption portal,” emphasized that, as with other government institutions, Iran’s judiciary is under the “absolute power” of the Supreme Leader.

OCCRP | June 21, 2019