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Islamic law was introduced into Iran’s legal system following the Islamic revolution of 1979. The country’s highest judicial body is the Supreme Council of Justice, a five-member group of senior clergy that supervises the appointment of all judges and codifies Islamic law. The council also drafts all legislation pertaining to civil and criminal offenses; the Majlis then debates the drafts and may amend any proposed bill before voting to accept or reject it. The faqih appoints the head of the Supreme Council of Justice; constitutional amendments passed in 1989 combined this office with that of chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court reviews decisions of the lower courts and renders judgments regarding their conformity to Islamic legal principles and the constitution. There are three types of lower courts in Iran: revolutionary, civil, and criminal. Revolutionary courts try cases involving antirevolutionary behavior, a broadly defined category that includes crimes ranging from plots to overthrow the government by violent means to trafficking in illegal drugs. Civil courts hear suits involving disputes between individuals or corporate entities. Criminal courts deal with murder and theft. In addition, there are special administrative courts, such as the Court of the Clergy and the Press Court, that hear cases of professional misconduct. Responsibility for the administration of courts is vested in the Ministry of Justice. More than 100 crimes—including murder, drug trafficking, spying, terrorism, treason, rape, adultery, and corruption—carry the possibility of a death sentence.


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