Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi (pictured), a central figure in Iran’s regime, died on Monday.

A relative of the 70-year-old ayatollah, who had been suffering from cancer, confirmed the death.

Since 2017, Shahroudi had been the head of the Expediency Council, which arbitrates differences between the three branches of Government. A former judiciary head for more than a decade until 2009, he had been considered a possible successor to the Supreme Leader before his illness. Shahroudi was also seen by many as positioning himself to replace Iraq’s leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.

As head of the judiciary, Shahroudi banned the death penalty by stoning. However, he was accused of presiding over the killing of hundreds of prisoners by other means and over other violations of civil and human rights. In January, he cut short a visit to Germany for cancer treatment when activists referred him to German prosecutors for crimes against humanity.

Shahroudi was head of Iran’s hardline judiciary for a decade until 2009, but he implemented some reforms including banning death penalty by stoning, arguing it was tarnishing Iran’s image.

Shahroudi was born in Iraq, but he moved to Iran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He was close to both the founder of the Islamic Repubic, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, and Khomeini’s successor Ali Khamenei.

Anglo-Iranian Academic Edalat Freed

Anglo-Iranian academic Abbas Edalat has been freed from detention after eight months.

Edalat, a professor in computer science and maths at Imperial College London, was seized in April in a raid on his family home with the confiscation of his computer, CDs, and notebooks. He had been held on “security charges”.

Iran Daily, April 26: Tehran Detains Another Anglo-Iranian Citizen

The Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, founded by Edalat, said he returned to the UK last week. it said the professor was detained due to “misinformation and misunderstanding by the Iranian security apparatus”.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said:

We can confirm that a British-Iranian dual national who was detained in Tehran has returned to the UK.

We continue to take action on all our consular cases in Iran in line with what we believe will produce the best outcomes in their cases.

Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still in Tehran’s Evin Prison after 32 months, serving a five-year sentence for espionage.

No evidence has ever been presented in a public court against Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was seized in April 2016 as she and her infant daughter were leaving Iran after a visit to the charity worker’s mother.

Kamal Foroughi, a consultant for the Malaysian national oil and gas company Petronas, was arrested in May 2011 and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013.