Ultra-conservative cleric appointed head of Iran’s judiciary

Ebrahim Raisi is a mainstay of the conservative establishment, having served as attorney general, supervisor of state broadcaster IRIB and prosecutor in the Special Court for Clerics. (Reuters)
Updated 07 March 2019

Ultra-conservative cleric appointed head of Iran’s judiciary

  • Ebrahim Raisi, who currently heads the holy shrine of Imam Reza, was the leading rival to President Hassan Rouhani at Iran’s 2017 election and has close ties to the supreme leader
  • During his 2017 campaign, Raisi took a tough line on Rouhani’s ‘weak efforts’ in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that brought the Islamic republic sanctions relief

TEHRAN: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday appointed ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, a one-time presidential hopeful, as head of the judiciary, the leader’s website said.
Former judge Raisi, who currently heads the holy shrine of Imam Reza, was the leading rival to President Hassan Rouhani at Iran’s 2017 election and has close ties to the supreme leader.
Khamenei said in a statement that he appointed Raisi to bring about a “transformation (in the judiciary) in line with (its) needs, advancements and challenges” on the 40th year of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“For carrying out this crucial act, I have chosen you who have a long track record in different levels of the judiciary and are in touch with its nuances,” he said in the statement.
He called on Raisi to be “with the people, the revolution and against corruption” in his new role.
Raisi is a mainstay of the conservative establishment, having served as attorney general, supervisor of state broadcaster IRIB and prosecutor in the Special Court for Clerics.
He bears the title of Hojjat Al-Islam, which is a rank under Ayatollah in the Shiite cleric hierarchy.
Raisi became deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
Human rights organizations, opposition members and dissidents have accused the tribunal of overseeing the execution of political prisoners without due legal process during his tenure.
He was chosen by Khamenei in 2016 to head Iran’s Imam Reza Shrine and lead its huge business conglomerate, Astan Qods Razavi, with interests in everything from IT and banking to construction and agriculture.
During his 2017 campaign, Raisi took a tough line on Rouhani’s “weak efforts” in negotiating the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that brought the Islamic republic sanctions relief in exchange for limiting its nuclear program.
US President Donald Trump last year withdrew Washington from the pact and reimposed sanctions on Tehran.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 16 min 57 sec ago

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”