Who will succeed Shahroudi, the Iranian cleric billed as Khamenei’s successor?

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After conflicting reports of his fate, Iranian authorities finally announced on Monday the death of the Head of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, in a hospital in the capital Tehran after a struggle with the disease.

Iranian human rights groups accuse Shahroudi, who died at the age of 70, of overseeing 2,000 executions during his tenure as chief justice during a period of 10 years (1999-2009). He was a close ally to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was considered a potential successor by observers.

Shahroudi cut off a visit to Germany for treatment in January when Iranian and German activists filed a complaint against him for "crimes of murder and crimes against humanity".

Demonstrators gathered in front of the International Center for Neurology in Hanover and protested against Shahroudi and the Iranian regime. They accused him of carrying out death sentences, arbitrary arrests, torture of critics and political prisoners, and in some cases executions of young men under the age of 18 when he was chief justice.

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The former German MP, Volker Beck, filed a complaint against Shahroudi, and called on the judicial authorities in the state of Lower Saxony in Germany to arrest him and try him on charges of murder, human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

Human rights groups say he has contributed to arbitrary arrests of political activists, banned dozens of newspapers, and many journalists and bloggers faced long imprisonment sentences because of him.

In addition to his positions is the judiciary and the Council of Expediency Discernment, he was considered a Shiite reference in Iran and Iraq. He was born in the Iraqi city of Najaf in 1948 and studied in its Houza. He moved to Iran after the revolution in 19179 and joined the Association of Combatant Clergy.

He was the head of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq before it was led by Mohammad Baqir al Hakim. The organization was the most powerful Shiite opposition group loyal to Iran and he co-founded and supervised it throughout the 1980s until the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003.

With the death of Shahroudi, a number of prominent political and religious figures are being named in the country as potential successors, namely Ebrahim Raisi, the former presidential candidate.

The name of the former president of the judiciary, Sadeq Larijani is also on the table who is due to leave office soon leaving it to Raisi, according to Iranian media.