August 30, 2009 / 8:16 AM / 10 years ago

Iran judiciary replaces hardline Tehran prosecutor

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s new judiciary chief has replaced a hardline prosecutor who played a key role in the mass trials of leading reformers arrested over unrest that erupted after the disputed presidential election in June.

In another move that may be welcomed by moderates, the IRNA news agency said judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani had ordered a probe into allegations by pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi that some opposition protesters were raped in jail.

IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, said late on Saturday that Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi had been replaced by Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi. The same news agency later said Mortazavi had been appointed deputy prosecutor general.

It was unclear if it would have affect the mass trials of more than 100 senior pro-reform figures, activists and others charged with inciting post-election protests. Four trials began in Tehran this month but sentences have not yet been announced.

The election and its turbulent aftermath have plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed deepening establishment divisions.

Judiciary sources told Reuters that Larijani, who was appointed in mid-August, had made Mortazavi’s replacement a condition for accepting the judiciary chief post.

IRNA said Larijani had also formed a “supervisory board” to look into the post-election events, including the situation at the Kahrizak jail south of Tehran, where many protesters were held and where at least three people died in custody.

It would also investigate the rape allegations raised by Karoubi this month, which have angered hardliners and which officials have rejected as “baseless.”

INDICTMENTS, CANADIAN PHOTOGRAPHER

Larijani is a brother of parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who ran against hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election.

Defeated candidates say this year’s presidential vote, in which Ahmadinejad won re-election for a second four-year term, was rigged. The authorities reject the accusation.

Mortazavi signed indictments against dozens of pro-reform figures put on trial on charges of inciting protests in a bid to topple the Islamic establishment after the election.

The opposition and the West have condemned the mass trials, in which a French teaching assistant was also in the dock.

Ahmadinejad called on Friday for the prosecution and punishment of the leaders of post-election unrest. He faces a test of his hold on power this week when Iran’s parliament debates and votes on his proposed new cabinet. [nDAH023544]

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists and activists, have been detained since the election. Many are still in jail.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s highest authority, said people responsible for crimes would face legal action, state television reported.

He made the comment in a meeting with a group of academics, including Abdolhossein Ruholamini, an adviser to conservative election candidate Mohsen Rezaie. A reformist website last month said Ruholamini’s son was killed in Tehran’s Evin prison after being detained in post-election unrest.

“All those who suffered from the recent events should know that the system is not intending to have an attitude of ignorance or forgiveness toward those who did bad things or committed crimes,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.

Last week, in remarks that appeared designed to calm Iran’s political turmoil, Khamenei said claims that opposition leaders had links to Western powers had not been proven despite hardliners’ allegations of foreign meddling.

Writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Jon Boyle

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