Iran appoints Shi'ite cleric as new top judge
TEHRAN, June 22 (Reuters) - Iran has appointed a founder of an Iraqi
opposition group as head of its judiciary, current judiciary chief Ayatollah
Mohammad Yazdi said on Tuesday.
Yazdi, quoted by the evening daily Kayhan, said he would hand over the
post in two months to Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi, who in the early 1980s
helped found the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI),
the main Shi'ite Moslem group fighting the government of President Saddam
Quoted by the official news agency IRNA, Yazdi said Hashemi's appointment
by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "is quite evident but nothing
has been put on paper yet."
Reformist newspapers and academics have expressed hope that Hashemi
would introduce changes in the judiciary, often accused of siding with
conservatives in internal political rows.
Yazdi, a prominent conservative cleric, has served two five-year terms
as judiciary head, a post he has used since 1997 to defend the conservative
clerical establishment against challenges from reformist allies of President
Hashemi, 57, has taken a low profile in Iran's political infighting,
earning him modest support from both conservatives and reformers.
Born and educated in the Iraqi city of Najaf, a stronghold of world
Shi'ite Islam, Hashemi, who is of Iranian descent, left Iraq to live in
Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution there.
He founded SCIRI with the help of Mohammad Baqer al-Hakim, the present
head of the Iran-based movement, and served as its spokesman until 1984,
according to newspapers.
Hashemi has been a member of several influential political and religious
bodies, including the Guardian Council which oversees parliament and elections.
In 1998, he was elected to the Assembly of Experts, which has the power
to appoint or sack the country's supreme leader.
Hashemi has taught at theological schools in the holy city of Qom and
published books on Islamic jurisprudence. He is also a member of a committee
trying to reconcile Islamic teachings with modern science and ideas.
Yazdi has been a strong defender of paramount clerical rule against
Khatami's efforts to set up an Islamic civil society and democratic challenges
from the president's supporters.
Under his administration, courts have tried and convicted several leading
reformers and intellectuals, notably Tehran's former mayor Gholamhossein
Karbaschi for graft and Islamic thinker Mohsen Kadivar for propaganda against
"Hashemi's arrival is not just a transfer of post, but it marks
a fundamental change in the administrative texture of the judiciary,"
said the reformist Neshat newspaper.
During his 10 years at the helm of the judiciary, Yazdi strengthened
the role of the clergy in the courts and boosted the role of Islamic sharia
law, at the expense of the more secular judges and pre-revolutionary civil
"Some people pick up a pen and write that Islamic punishment belongs
to Prophet Mohammad's time, and that we should act in conformity with human
rights principles," Yazdi said on Tuesday.
"If we wanted to follow the Westerners' idea of human rights, we
would not have even deposed the Shah," he said, referring to the former
king toppled by the Islamic revolution.