Ayatollah Montazeri, Iranian Cleric, Dies at 87

The New York Times is reporting that revolutionary-turned-reformer, Ayatollah Montazeri, died of heart failure early Sunday:

Beirut, Lebanon – Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the plain-spoken senior Shiite cleric who helped forge Iran’s system of religious government and went on to become a fierce critic of its hard-line rulers, died Sunday morning at the age of 87. He died of heart failure in his sleep, his son Ahmad told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Ayatollah Montazeri, who was once designated to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s supreme leader, stepped away from the country’s hard-line path in the 1980s, and later embraced the reform movement.

In the months since Iran’s disputed June presidential elections, he has issued stinging denunciations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, saying the Islamic Republic is neither Islamic nor a republic, and that its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has lost his legitimacy. Only two weeks ago, he warned that the Basij militia – which has brutally suppressed opposition street rallies – was forsaking the “path of God” for the “path of Satan.”

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