Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, a senior Iranian cleric and a former chief justice, died in Tehran on Monday after a long illness, state media reported.
Shahroudi, 70, was a close ally of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and had been seen by analysts as a possible successor to him.
He cut short a visit to Germany for treatment in January when activists referred him to German prosecutors, citing his record of passing death sentences which they said amounted to a crime against humanity.
Shahroudi was head of Iran’s hardline judiciary for a decade until 2009, but he implemented some reforms including banning death penalty by stoning, arguing it was tarnishin
During his 1999 to 2009 tenure, Shahroudi implemented more than 2,000 executions, including for adolescents, despite Iran having signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits such killings. He also allowed the arbitrary arrests of political and human-rights activists, the torture of prisoners and the closure of reformist newspapers.g Iran’s image.
However, human rights groups say he failed to put an end to arbitrary arrests of political and human rights activists, and mistreatment and torture of the prisoners. Dozens of newspapers were banned under his watch and many journalists and bloggers faced long term sentences.
In January, German Green Party politician Volker Beck and a human rights group filed a criminal complaints against Shahroudi, who was residing at the time in a neurological treatment center in Hanover, where 200 demonstrators showed up to protest his presence. Beck said that Shahroudi’s mass murder activity could be prosecuted under German law covering crimes against humanity.
“Germany should not be a sanctuary for such people, who in their country persecute people for political or religious reasons and threaten them with death. The Iranian regime persecutes women who were raped, homosexuals, Baha’is, Kurds and atheists,” Beck told The Jerusalem Post at the time.
He added, “It would be a big mistake if the federal government provides diplomatic immunity here to the organizer of mass murders through Iran’s justice system. We should not be a health resort for human-rights violators, rather they should be held accountable.” Germany’s prosecutors declined to take action against Shahroudi. Critics view of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s foreign policy say she is soft on the regime in Tehran. Merkel and her foreign minister Heiko Maas are working to circumvent US sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Shahroudi was appointed by Khamenei in 2017 as the head of the Expediency Council, a body intended to resolve disputes between parliament and a watchdog body, the Guardian Council.
He was born in the city of Najaf in Iraq to Iranian parents. In the 1970s he was jailed and tortured by Saddam Hussein’s security forces because of his political activities.
He moved to Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979 and was promoted to top posts. In recent years, Shahroudi aimed to raise his profile in Iraq as a replacement for Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top Shi’ite cleric and a powerful figure in Iraq. Reuters contributed to this report.
Benjamin Weinthal is a European correspondent at The Jerusalem Post and a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.