The Ministry of Justice was first established by Mirza Davar under the government of Mostofi al Mamalek in 1906. According to existing documents, as many as 62 individuals have served as justice minister since the launch of the Justice Ministry, with some holding the position more than once.
Following the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Assadollah Mobashery was Iran’s first justice minister followed by Ahmad Sadr Haj Seyyed Javadi, Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani, Seyyed Mohammad Asghari, Hassan Habibi, Esmail Shoushtari, Jamal Karimi-Rad, Gholam-Hossein Elham and Seyyed Morteza Bakhtiari. More than 110 years after the launch of the ministry, Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi is now at the helm of the Justice Ministry.
The following take a brief look at each of the 10 individuals who have run the ministry in the post-revolution era:
1. Assadollah Mobashery
Assadollah Mobashery, who was a graduate of the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of Tehran, obtained a PhD from France. In the 1940s, he was a prosecutor in Shiraz and Isfahan. In Dr. Mosaddegh’s national government, he was named an advisor to the Supreme Court and director general of the Ministry of Justice. He was wanted by the military government in the wake of the 28 Mordad coup (the 1953 coup d'état) and was later imprisoned. In 1961, Mobashery was named head of the General Inspection Organization by Justice Minister Alamouti in the government of Dr. Amini. He tried a number of influential figures such as Lieutenant General Alavi (the head of Shahrbani [Law Enforcement]), Zargham (the finance minister), Ebtehaj (the director of the Planning Organization) and Soheili (the prime minister). The trials resulted in the imprisonment of those officials. In 1963, he was forced into early retirement.
After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, he was named justice minister in the interim government of Mehdi Bazargan, but resigned after a few months and embarked on cultural activities. He was a scholar with a natural flair for writing poetry and composing sonnets. He died – after a long battle with illness – in 1990.
2. Ahmad Sadr Haj Seyyed Javadi
He had a PhD in political science from France. He was the first interior minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the interim government of Mehdi Bazargan. He was named justice minister in the wake of Mobashery’s resignation. He was a founding member of the Freedom Movement of Iran, and an active member of the National Resistance Movement. Haj Seyyed Javadi served as Tehran prosecutor and was also a member of the Council of the Islamic Revolution. He represented Qazvin in the first term of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and was the president of the Encyclopedia of Shi’a for 30 years. In April 2013, he passed away at the age of 96.
3. Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani
Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani was a member and chairman of the Assembly of Experts. He also served as secretary general of the Combatant Clergy Association and president of Imam Sadiq University. Before the Islamic Revolution, he was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned, exiled and tortured for his anti-Shah struggles. After the revolution, he was one of the clerics who had a seat on the Council of the Islamic Revolution.
Mahdavi Kani held different positions among them: prime minister, top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Committee, member of the Guardian Council, the late Imam Khomeini’s representative to an arbitration panel to settle the differences of state officials, interior minister, justice minister, member of the Cultural Revolution Headquarters, member of the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council appointed by the late Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader, head of the center for relief operations in bomb-stricken areas, member of the Constitutional Review Council, member of the Expediency Council and chairman of the Assembly of Experts. Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani passed away in 2014.
4. Seyyed Mohammad Asghari
He was justice minister in the government of Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar (when Mohammad Ali Rajaee was president). Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, the then Judiciary chief, proposed Asghari to the government as his nominee for justice minister. Later he became a Tehran MP in the second and third terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
In 1989, he was named managing editor of the Kayhan daily. After a while, Mohammad Khatami, the then representative of the Supreme Leader in the daily, left his post and Asghari was put in charge there. In 1993, he resigned his post in Kayhan and became the dean of the Faculty of International Relations in the University of Tehran. Four years later, he became an advisor to the labor minister in the government of President Khatami, and in 1999 he was appointed Iran’s ambassador to Bulgaria.
Upon return home, Asghari became a legal advisor to Mehdi Karroubi, the then speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. When the sixth term of parliament and Khatami’s term in office came to an end, he retired from politics and focused on teaching law in the University of Tehran.
5. Hassan Ebrahim Habibi
Born in 1936, Hassan Ebrahim Habibi held a PhD in sociology and law from Sorbonne University. He served as culture [and Islamic guidance] minister in the government of Bazargan, science minister in Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s cabinet and later justice minister in the same cabinet, and first vice-president in the governments of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami.
Habibi was the president of Iranology Foundation and one of the lawyers who built on the charters of other countries to draft the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. He was a member of the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council and the Expediency Council until his death. Habibi was a member of the International Court of Arbitration, and president of the Academy of Persian Language and Literature and head of the academy’s department in charge of selecting Persian equivalents for foreign terms, general or technical. He passed away in 2012.
6. Ismail Shoushtari
Mohammad Ismail Shoushtari was born in Neishabour in 1949. He studied in a seminary school before the Islamic Revolution, and after the revolution he worked in the prosecutor’s office of the revolutionary court when Ayatollah Azari Qomi and Ayatollah Hadavi were prosecutor and prosecutor general, respectively. Later the late Imam Khomeini’s Office appointed him Friday prayer leader in Shirvan. He represented his hometown, Ghoochan, in the first and second terms of the Islamic Consultative Assembly and was a member of parliament’s Legal and Judicial Committee in that period.
Then he got a seat on the Supreme Judicial Council and served as deputy prosecutor of a Supreme Court branch. In early 1988, he became the director of the State Prisons and Security and Corrective Measures Organization. He served as justice minister for 16 years in the two-term governments of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyyed Mohammad Khatami. Acting as a judge in the Supreme Court of Iran was the last public office Shoushtari held before retirement.
7. Jamal Karimi-Rad
He was born in Anat, Qazvin in 1956. He held a BA in judicial law and an MA in public management and international law. After serving in different positions for years, he was named justice minister and judiciary spokesman in 2005. Karimi-Rad, who was confirmed by parliament as justice minister with 191 votes in favor, was killed in a car accident on December 28, 2006. Gholam-Hossein Elham was nominated to fill the vacancy.
Karimi-Rad served in the following positions: deputy prosecutor of public and revolutionary courts (25 years), public court prosecutor in Kurdistan, prosecutor of public and revolutionary courts in Zanjan and Qazvin provinces, head of 1st Civil Court in Zanjan, head of the revolutionary court and the court which heard cases related to Article 49 of the Constitution in Qazvin, head of Qazvin Provincial Appeals Court, director general of the provincial justice department in Zanjan, director general of Qazvin Provincial Discretionary Punishment Organization, member of the Judiciary’s vetting committee in Zanjan and Qazvin provinces, top member of a panel hearing cases of misconduct by the personnel of the Qazvin Justice Department, the disciplinary prosecutor of judges, and the spokesman of the Judiciary.
8. Gholam-Hossein Elham
Elham, who holds a PhD in criminal law and criminology, is a faculty member of the School of Law and Political Science at the University of Tehran. Following the 2005 presidential elections won by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Elham was named chief of staff of the new president; after a while he was tapped to become government spokesman in parallel.
After the death of Jamal Karimi-Rad in a car crash, the president appointed Elham acting justice minister. Later, in a letter to the Islamic Consultative Assembly in February 2007, Ahmadinejad named him as his proposed nominee for justice minister. In the ninth government, Elham served as head of the Anti-Contraband and Currency Smuggling Headquarters.
The following are the executive and managerial posts Gholam-Hossein Elham has held: member of the Guardian Council, Judiciary spokesman, law professor of the University of Tehran, member of the Board of Trustees at Shahid Chamran and Allameh Tabatabaei universities, head of the Research Center of the Guardian Council, deputy head of the office of the Supreme Leader’s Representatives in Universities, advisor to the justice minister for drafting legal bills, vice-president of the University of Tehran, deputy director for research at the Islamic Development Organization, political advisor to Tehran’s public prosecutor, deputy prosecutor of the revolutionary court, member of the attorney general’s offices for supervision and political issues, secretary of the legal committee of the attorney general’s office, and member of the committee appointed by the Supreme Judicial Court to establish the Judicial Organization of the Armed Forces.
9. Seyyed Morteza Bakhtiari
Morteza Bakhtiari, born in Mashhad in 1952, held the following positions: director general of provincial justice departments in Khorasan and Fars, director of the State Prisons and Security and Corrective Measures Organization and governor general of Isfahan Province when the ninth government was in office. Bakhtiari, who has studied in a seminary school, was proposed by President Ahmadinejad in 2009 to the Islamic Consultative Assembly as his choice for justice minister. On September 3, 2009, he was confirmed by parliament to serve as justice minister. He has also served as director general of the justice department in Fars Province (1997), director of the State Prisons and Security and Corrective Measures Organization (1997-2004), director general of the justice department in Khorasan Razavi Province (2004-2005), and Isfahan governor general (2005-2009).
10. Mostafa Poormohamadi
The following are the positions Pour-Mohammadi has held during his career:
- Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court in Bandar Abbas, Kermanshah and Mashhad (1979-1986)
- Prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court in western provinces (1986)
- Representative of the Intelligence Ministry in the trial of political prisoners (1988)
- Director of the Intelligence Ministry’s Foreign Directorate-general (1990-1999)
- Advisor to the Supreme Leader’s chief of staff and head of the Political and Social Department at the Supreme Leader’s Office (2002 – to date)
- Deputy Intelligence Minister (1987-1999)
- Member of the Board of Directors at Jamiat al-Zahra in Qom (1987 – to date)
- Member and president of the Board of Trustees at the Islamic Revolution Documents Center (1996 – to date)
- Member of the Founding Board at Masjed Soleyman Seminary School
- Lecturer at Imam Sadiq University (2000 – to date)
- Interior Minister of the ninth government (September 2005 – August 2008)
- Director of the General Inspection Organization appointed by former Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi (2008-2013)
- Chairman of the Founding Board of Toloue Mehr Institute of Higher Education (2011 – to date)