TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s Supreme Leader appointed Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani as the new head of the country’s judiciary on Saturday, state television reported.
Some reformist websites had recently reported that Larijani was hesitant to accept the position because of the mass arrests of moderate detainees over unrest that erupted after the country’s disputed June 12 presidential election.
He will face controversy straight away — the semi-official ISNA news agency said a new trial would start on Sunday of 25 opposition supporters detained after the election.
Larijani, a brother of parliament speaker Ali Larijani and a member of Iran’s hardline constitutional watchdog the Guardian Council, replaces Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi whose 10-year term has ended.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a letter to Larijani that he hoped the judiciary would flourish under him. Larijani, a cleric born in Iraq’s holy Shi’ite city of Najaf, will serve a five-year term.
Iran arrested hundreds of people after the vote during the country’s worst street unrest since its 1979 Islamic revolution.
After police and security forces quelled the street turmoil, the leadership put on trial more than 100 moderates, despite the damage it might inflict on the government’s legitimacy and relations with the West.
“Some 25 more detainees will go on trial on Sunday,” ISNA said, without naming them. They will be the third group to appear in court.
The losing candidates say 69 people were killed in unrest that erupted after the vote. The figure is more than double the official toll of 26.
Karoubi said on Sunday some protesters, both men and women, had been raped in detention. His allegation was rejected by Iranian authorities as “baseless.” Karoubi insists he has evidences proving the mistreatment of detainees.
Many of the post-election detainees were held in south Tehran’s Kahrizak prison, built to house people breaching vice laws. At least three people died in custody there and widespread anger erupted as reports of abuse in jail spread.
The abuse allegations, rejected also by Tehran’s police chief, have created a rift among hardline politicians, many of whom backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
Ahmadinejad, who was sworn in on August 5, must name a cabinet and seek parliament’s approval in what may be a stormy process.
The semi-official Mehr news agency reported 12 police officers and judges had been sacked and reported to judiciary over their involvement in mistreating detainees at Kahrizak.
“The police has sacked a number of its employees who had violated the law in relation to Kahrizak,” Mehr quoted Parviz Sarvari, a member of a parliamentary committee in charge of investigating the cases of detainees, as saying on Saturday.
“Even the judge that ordered the transfer of detainees to Kahrizak had violated the law and should be punished,” he said, according to Mehr.
The Supreme Leader ordered the closure of Kahrizak last month for lacking the necessary standards to preserve the rights of those arrested.
At least 200 people remain in jail, including senior moderate politicians, activists, lawyers and journalists.
Reformist website mowjcamp.com said some detainees in Tehran’s notorious Even prison had started a hunger strike on Saturday morning. The website did not give further details and the report could not be independently confirmed.
The presidential poll has also plunged the country into its biggest internal crisis in the past three decades and has exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite.
Moderate defeated presidential candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi say the vote was rigged to secure the re-election of Ahmadinejad but the authorities have said it was the healthiest election the country has had.
Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Richard Meares