Iran to appoint new judiciary head next week
TEHRAN, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Iran plans to appoint a new judiciary head
next week to replace Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a stern critic of President
Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms, the judiciary announced on Tuesday.
Yazdi, a staunch conservative at the helm of the powerful judiciary
for 10 years, will be succeeded by Iraqi-born Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi,
who has not taken sides in the current factional dispute in the Islamic
Judiciary spokesman Fotowwat Nasiri-Savadkouhi told the official IRNA
news agency the transfer would take place on August 17.
Iran's judiciary is independent from Khatami's administration and is
among many powerful institutions in the Islamic republic under direct control
of supreme clerical leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Its current chief, Ayatollah Yazdi, has been at sharp odds with Khatami's
pro-reform allies and his courts have moved to imprison many liberal journalists
and Islamic intellectuals in the past months.
The boldest move came in the closure last month of the country's leading
pro-reform newspaper for five years and the barring of its publisher Mohammad
Mousavi-Khoeiniha from press activities for three years. The court ordered
the ban on the daily Salam for printing secret documents.
The court's original order on July 7 suspending Salam touched off a
pro-democracy student rally that was attacked by police and hardline vigilantes,
leading to the worst unrest since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Yazdi's resignation was a main demand in a series by pro-reform students
in last month's riots. Yazdi has dismissed such calls and says the decision
to step down was his alone.
Pro-reform groups, accusing the judiciary of siding with conservatives,
are cautiously welcoming Yazdi's departure, hoping that his successor will
soften the courts' attitude towards them.
Hashemi, 57, has so far taken a low profile in Iran's political infighting,
earning him modest support from both conservatives and reformers. Press
reports suggest some sweeping change in the upper ranks of the judiciary
may soon follow his assumption of office.
But officials say Khamenei has limited to 10 years the tenure of chiefs
of institutions under his wing.
``The leader thinks that it is not efficient for a head of an institution
to serve more than 10 years,'' Habibollah Asgaroladi, an aide to Khamenei,
said last month.