Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri dies

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died yesterday. Montazeri had been a key leader in the 1979 Iranian revolution and at one time was expected to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of Iran, until he fell out with Khomeini. In 1987 Montazeri had advocated for the legalisation of political parties. He had also criticsed the post-revolution regime for its brutality and the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988.

After the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election, Montazeri supported the opposition and declared the result of the election fraudulent.

Montazeri's grandson said that he had died peacefully in his sleep. In Najafabad, the cleric's hometown, shops were closed and the streets full of mourners.

The Times and other news agencies reported that the Iranian authorities were concerned that the burial, due to start at 09.00 local time tomorrow in Qom, would be a focus for more opposition protests against the Iranian government. Supporters of Montazeri were reportedly already arriving in Tehran, and ParlemanNews reports that thousands of people would be attending the funeral.

The Telegraph reported that news of Montazeri's death had sparked protests by students even before the burial, who filled university campuses chanting pro-reform slogans.