Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, the former head of Iran’s Revolutionary Courts, died on Nov. 26 from a series of health problems. He was 77.
During his two years on the job, Khalkhali’s actions earned him the monikers “the butcher” and “the hanging judge.” As prosecutor, judge and jury, Khalkhali reportedly ordered the execution of hundreds of people, including top military officers and secret police leaders, during the months after the 1979 revolution. As many as 60 Kurds a day were also killed.
Khalkhali was seen on television gloating and poking at the burnt corpses of U.S. soldiers who were killed while trying to rescue 52 hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran. He also created the judicial concept of “obvious guilt,” whereby the accused is presumed guilty if his or her crimes were “very clear” prior to trial.
Although Khalkhali was unrepentant about his rulings, Ayatollah Khomeini asked him to resign in 1980.