Thousands of dissidents flock to attend mourning ceremony for Grand Ayatollah

2009/12/20

Published in German weekly magazine “Spiegel” on December 20 2009
Source (German): http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/0,1518,668183,00.html#ref=rss

DPA Grand Ayatollah Montazeri

New tensions are ahead in Iran: Thousands of supporters of the opposition are expected to attend the funeral service for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri on Monday. Already large numbers of police forces are said to be present there. The regime critic died from a heart attack at the age of 87.

Tehran – Thousands of Iranians are heading to the religious center in the city of Qom in the South of Iran, where Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri is laid out. The cleric, one of the sharpest critics of the regime in Tehran, had died from a heart attack last night at the age of 87, and is supposed to be buried on Monday.

In the capital, Iranian opposition supporters are bemoaning Montazeri’s death in the streets, according to reformist websites. “He will be remembered as a man who sacrificed his political life to his principles”, says Baqer Moein, an expert on Iran. Montazeri had been an inspiration for other oppositionists.

The funeral of the reformer could provide a staging area for the moderate opposition, and this could unsettle the authorities. According to a reformist website, riot police forces already on Sunday were present all over Qom. Tensions had recently increased again, six months after the disputed presidential elections.

The news of Montazeri’s death was barely reflected in the Iranian media. Also, official reports did not mention Montazeri’s title “Grand Ayatollah”.

Among the clerics, Montazeri was one of the fiercest critics of the disputed elections in June and the rigid actions against protesters. He had called for a three day mourning in honor of the slain protesters, and accused the leadership around ultra conservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of breaching the precepts of religion with their unyielding stance. He had also described the religious regime of the country as a dictatorship.

Montazeri had been among the leading figures of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 that overthrew the Shah, who was allied with the West. Before dissociating himself from revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and falling from grace, he had been his supporter. The influential theologian had been under house arrest for five years. In 1989, not he, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was appointed Supreme Leader of Iran.
als/Reuters/dpa

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