Iran's new judiciary chief ousted the hard-line prosecutor behind the ongoing trials against opposition figures in Tehran, replacing him with a relatively moderate newcomer from the provinces, an Iranian news agency reported Saturday.
For years, Tehran prosecutor-general Saeed Mortazavi, a staunch ally of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been the bane of reformists, journalists and activists.
His removal suggests an attempt by the new judiciary chief, Sadegh Larijani, the scion of a powerful conservative family, to curtail the influence of hard-liners and clean up the image of the country's legal system.
Mortazavi was replaced by Abbas Jaafari Dowlatabadi, the former head of the judiciary in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Mortazavi organized the ongoing televised court proceedings, derided as "show trials," against protesters, political activists and journalists swept up in the unrest over the disputed June 12 presidential election.
He gained international notoriety after the 2003 prison death of Iranian Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi and its subsequent coverup. The Canadian government accused him of actively supervising her physical abuse before her death. A 2003 report by the Iranian parliament accused him of doctoring testimony in trying to cover up the circumstances behind the photojournalist's death.
Mortazavi has denied the charges.
Dowlatabadi is known as a relative moderate. He has spoken out against stoning those accused of adultery and opposes "forced marriages" prevalent among the tribes in the southwestern region.
"As long as certain people think they are entitled to kill others without facing punishment, even judges cannot prosecute them," he has said, according to the official website of the Khuzestan judiciary. "People make judgments about the system based on the conduct of the judges."