The Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Mehdi Khalaji writes that widespread reports coming out of Tehran suggest Sadeq Larijani, brother of Speaker of the Majles (Iranian Parliament) Ali Larijani, will officially replace Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as the head of the judiciary in two days’ time.
The judiciary is particularly important, as it “wields considerable power… and has a great deal of latitude to make decisions without reference to law or Islamic concepts, especially when ‘safeguarding the interests of the regime’ is deemed necessary.”
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Born in 1960 in Najaf, Iraq, Sadeq Larijani is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hashem Amoli and the son-in-law of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Vahid Khorasani, currently one of the most widely followed marjas, “sources of emulation” whose rulings are regarded as binding by devout Shiite believers.
Sadeq justifies his lack of political experience in a short autobiography on his website. Because he “felt that the West’s cultural invasion was no less important than a military invasion,” he decided to prepare himself for “confronting the cultural invasion,” in part by learning English. He used his new language skills to translate several philosophical works, such as an article by Karl Popper on the philosophy of science and G. J. Warnock’s Contemporary Moral Philosophy, the latter of which he annotated and critiqued from the Islamic point of view. Sadeq first made a name for himself by criticizing religious intellectuals such as Abdulkarim Soroush and eventually became one of the main voices of the Islamic Republic.
In 2001, Sadeq Larijani was the youngest jurist ever to be appointed to the Guardian Council, the twelve-person body responsible for approving all laws passed by the Majlis and for supervising elections. In the course of his Guardian Council activities, he has tried to remain under the radar by avoiding public appearances and media interviews. He has also made every effort to keep his relationships with Khamenei, the intelligence apparatus, and the IRGC under wraps.
Sadeq Larijani’s ties to the IRGC and intelligence agencies provide ample reason to believe that he will use his new powers to crack down even further on human rights and civil liberties than did his predecessors. Moreover, Larijani’s appointment signals that the judiciary, the IRGC, and the intelligence agencies will be more closely aligned then ever.