Germany Mulls Charges Against Top Iranian Cleric Shahrudi

(RFE/RL)  — Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said it is continuing to investigate whether to bring charges against a top Iranian cleric who is receiving medical treatment in the country as a report emerged he may return to Tehran on January 11.

A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office told Reuters on January said that “we will continue to examine on a legal basis whether [Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi] Shahrudi was guilty of crimes against humanity” during his decade overseeing an estimated 2,000 executions as the head of Iran’s justice ministry, regardless of whether he leaves or stays in the country.

Two complaints were filed this week in Germany against Shahrudi, who has been mentioned as a possible future Iranian supreme leader, one by former Green Party lawmaker Volker Beck and the second by an exiled opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

The opposition group urged Germany on January 10 to immediately issue an arrest warrant for Shahrudi to prevent him from leaving the northern city of Hannover, where he is receiving medical treatment. The group said it learned that the Iranian government has reserved seven flight tickets for Shahrudi and his entourage to return to Tehran on January 11.

A coalition of Iranian human rights groups on January 10 said it provided the German government with what it said was evidence that Shahrudi “was responsible for the Islamic Revolutionary Courts that sent numerous human rights activists, defense lawyers, journalists, webloggers, political dissidents, and religious minorities, to Iran’s notorious prisons where they were subject to torture, rape, and murder.”

In a news release, the coalition quoted Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian human rights lawyer who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, as saying “Shahrudi is directly responsible for the appointment of judges and prosecutors that have been responsible for persecutions and systematic violations of fundamental human rights. He must be held accountable.”

Shahrudi, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has attracted protesters and sharp criticism during his stay at a neurological treatment center in Hannover.

The mass-circulation Bild daily’s front-page headline on January 8 read, “Death Judge In Iran, Luxury Patient In Germany.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that the prosecutor in the German province of Lower Saxony, where Hannover is located, is also considering whether to pursue a criminal complaint filed against Shahrudi in that jurisdiction.

About 200 demonstrators showed up outside the Hannover hospital where he is staying on January 6 to protest the executions of an estimated 2,000 Iranians that took place while he was Iran’s justice minister.

The complaints against him claim he can be prosecuted under German law for alleged crimes committed in Iran. Shahrudi has not publicly commented on the accusations against him.

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said on January 8 that Shahrudi had sought treatment in Germany for a “serious illness” and that his request was granted after “credible health reasons” were given.

Bild reported that if the German government determined that Shahrudi, who is currently a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, is considered to be a government office-holder, he might be granted diplomatic immunity from prosecution.

“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,” Beck told The Jerusalem Post, explaining the reasons behind the complaint he filed against Shahrudi.

“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,” he said. “The Iranian regime persecutes women who were raped, homosexuals, Baha’is, Kurds, and atheists.”

Shahrudi headed Iran’s judiciary for 10 years from 1999 to 2009. Amnesty International said that during that time he carried out more than 2,000 executions, including of adolescents, while overseeing the torture of prisoners and arrests of political and human rights activists.

Shahrudi was a student of Iran’s first supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and is viewed as a strict disciple of Khamenei.

Besides serving in the Assembly of Experts, Shahrudi currently heads Iran’s Expediency Council, which moderates disputes between Iran’s parliament and a constitutional watchdog known as the Guardians Council.

Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin, told the Post that “this representative of the Islamic dictatorship shouldn’t be on European territory at all,” and criminal prosecution was “absolutely the right path to go.”

“These human rights violators must learn that they can’t deprive their own citizens of their inalienable rights and then receive luxurious treatment – medical as well as political,” Farzan said.


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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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