Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has stepped down from his position as head of the Assembly of Experts.

Rafsanjani had held the position for the last four years. The Assembly of Experts is responsible for selecting the supreme leader and supervises his activities.

He has been criticised in the past by hard-line clerics as being too close to the opposition. Rafsanjani will be replaced by Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani.

The current supreme leader is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is accused of abducting opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi (MEED 7:3:11).

The men have not been seen since mid-February when they were placed under house arrest to prevent them from attending anti-government demonstrations. Protests began in Iran on 14 February when thousands gathered in Tehran’s Azadi Square spurred by recent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.