August 8, 2023 | Flash Brief

Sanctioned Former Prosecutor-General Chosen to Lead Iran’s Supreme Court

August 8, 2023 | Flash Brief

Sanctioned Former Prosecutor-General Chosen to Lead Iran’s Supreme Court

Latest Developments

Iranian media announced the appointment of Mohammad Jafar Montazeri to the position of the chief judge of the Supreme Court of Iran on August 6. Montazeri, who has served as prosecutor-general of Iran since 2016, was sanctioned by the United States and Canada in December 2022 and by the United Kingdom in January 2023 for his role in the prosecution of demonstrators. The regime subsequently convicted and executed some of the protesters.

Expert Analysis

“Montazeri has played a crucial role in oppressing the Iranian people and punishing protesters in recent years. His promotion reflects the observed trend of rewarding those elements that have demonstrated unwavering loyalty and obedience. The regime depends on these individuals for its survival.” Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

“Musical chairs will not mask the true nature of the Islamic Republic’s injustice system. If anything, the promotion of Montazeri — who is sanctioned in the United States and UK — to lead the country’s top court is a sign that the Islamic Republic is gearing up for another crackdown as the one-year anniversary of nationwide anti-regime protests triggered by the killing of Mahsa Amini approaches.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Groomed for the Role

The 75-year-old Montazeri has spent his entire career in Iran’s justice system, including serving as the head of the Court of Administrative Justice and head of the Special Clerical Court. As prosecutor-general, he oversaw the prosecution and enforcement of criminal judgments. He pushed for harsh sentences for those arrested during the nationwide protests that began in September 2022. The United States has accused Iranian authorities of using torture to extract confessions, denying counsel to defendants, and conducting sham trials in the Revolutionary Court in at least a dozen death sentences of individuals connected to the protests.

Brutal Crackdown

Executions have risen in the past few years of Montazeri’s tenure, with 435 executions already this year, according to the nonprofit Iran Human Rights. The organization estimated that Iran executed at least 582 people last year, a 75 percent increase from 2021. According to an FDD tracker, 4,039 protests have occurred in Iran since September of last year, 522 of which took place since the beginning of June. During this time, the regime’s brutal crackdown persisted, with at least 21,660 demonstrators arrested and 635 killed in the streets, including 78 minors.

A Powerful New Position

The chief of Iran’s judiciary is hand-selected by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for a renewable five-year term. Montazeri will have the power to appoint judges and prosecutors in Iran. He replaces hardline judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, whom Khamenei selected in 2021 to replace Ebrahim Raisi upon his election as president.

 “Iran Intensifies Crackdown on Dissent,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Begins Trials of Two Female Journalists,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Executes Three Protesters Despite International Outcry,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Politics and Economy