Rights groups and the United States government criticized Iran for appointing a cleric who has been implicated for his role in mass executions in the 1980s to head its judiciary, the Voice of America reported  Wednesday.
Ebrahim Raisi was the deputy prosecutor in Tehran in 1988 when the regime carried out thousands of summary executions of dissidents.
While the VOA reported that although “Iran’s Islamist leaders have ignored or denied the existence of such mass executions,” in 2016, the regime jailed  the son of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri for releasing recordings of his father objecting to the death sentences.
Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the director of the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR), described the appointment of Raisi as a show of defiance by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against both foreign and domestic critics.
Shadi Sadr, director of Justice for Iran, told VOA Persian that the appointment would protect Raisi from prosecution. However, she said that the international community could still act against the cleric, by imposing a travel ban on him as a human rights violator.
“At the very least, the United Nations and other international institutions should condemn the appointment of a man accused of one of Iran’s greatest crimes to the highest judicial post in the country,” Sadr suggested.
Ebrahim Raeesi, involved in mass executions of political prisoners, was chosen to lead #Iran ’s judiciary. What a disgrace! The regime makes a mockery of the legal process by allowing unfair trials and inhumane prison conditions. Iranians deserve better!
— Robert Palladino (@StateDeputySPOX) March 5, 2019 
State Department Spokesman Robert Palladino called  Raisi’s appointment to head Iran’s judiciary a “disgrace” on Twitter. “The regime makes a mockery of the legal process by allowing unfair trials and inhumane prison conditions. Iranians deserve better!” Palladino added.
In 2016, Khamenei appointed Raisi to head  the Astan Quds Razavi, one of Iran’s largest charities. Controlling the charity increased Raisi’s prominence and gave him the resources to build a network of supporters. By naming Raisi to this position, Ray Takeyh, an expert on Iran at the Council for Foreign Relations, assessed  that Khamenei “opened the gates of the Islamic Republic’s murky financial universe to Raisi.”
Takeyh speculated that the appointment was made to prepare Raisi as a candidate to succeed Khamenei as Supreme Leader.
He observed that Raisi shared with Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “their penchant for conspiracy theories.” Raisi also “demonstrate[s] a contempt for the West and [is] prepared to shed blood on behalf of the regime. The next supreme leader has to not only believe in the theocracy’s mission of repression but also have been an integral part of that machinery. No one in the Islamic Republic embodies these attributes more than Raisi.”
While Raisi still heads the charity, he finished  a distant second to Hassan Rouhani in the race for president in 2017.
The appointment of a new head of Iran’s judiciary comes at the same time that the family of Michael White, a Navy veteran, said  that he is being held by Iran on unspecified charges. According to his family, White, who was arrested in July, is in deteriorating health.
[Photo: IRNA ]