(RFE/RL) — Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a dominant figure in the country’s politics for decades, has died from heart failure, state media report. He was 82.
Iranian media said on January 8 that Rafsanjani had been admitted to the Shohadaa Hospital in northern Tehran because of a heart condition.
State TV later announced that “unfortunately, the doctors’ effort was not successful and he passed away.”
Rafsanjani’s body was later transferred to Jamaran prayer hall, where politicians and religious figures gathered to pay their last respects.
The government announced three days of mourning, and a funeral was expected to be held on January 10.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful figure, said political differences never overshadowed decades of “friendship” with Rafsanjani.
President Hassan Rohani wrote on Twitter, “The soul of the great man of the [Islamic] Revolution, symbol of patience and resistance has gone to Heaven.”
Rafsanjani was regarded as a “pragmatic conservative” open to improving ties to the West.
He headed the Expediency Council, a body that is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and the Guardians Council — an unelected constitutional watchdog.
Rafsanjani was also a member of the Assembly of Experts — Iran’s top clerical body, charged with appointing, and if required dismissing, the country’s supreme leader.
He served as president from 1989 to 1997. During his two terms in office, he consistently tried to promote reforms, a free-market position domestically, and supported a moderate position internationally.
However, Rafsanjani was accused by some Iranian reformers of involvement in the killing of liberals and dissidents during his presidency — charges he denied.
He was also named by prosecutors in Argentina among the Iranian officials suspected of links to a 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebad told RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that Rafsanjani was at least “aware” if not involved in “many human rights tragedies,” including the slaying of the dissidents in Iran.
“Therefore, his human rights records are by no means positive,” Ebadi said.
However, Ebadi pointed out that Rafsanjani “came closer to people” later in his political career and “started to say things that people wanted to hear.”
Rafsanjani ran again for president in 2005, but lost to Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the then relatively little-known mayor of Tehran. After the election defeat, Rafsanjani became openly critical of the president.
After Ahmadinejad’s reelection in the disputed 2009 vote, Rafsanjani came under pressure by hard-liners after calling for the immediate release of political prisoners and freedom of the press.
The electoral dispute led to eight months of violent street protests.
Some of the members of Rafsanjani’s family have also made the headlines.
Rafsanjani’s daughter Faezeh was arrested in 2012 on charges of “antigovernment propaganda” during the 2009 vote. She spent six months in prison, a sentence seen as aimed at Rafsanjani.
His son Mehdi was also arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years on corruption and security charges.
Rafsanjani sought to run for the 2013 presidential election but Iran’s election overseers rejected his candidacy, citing his advanced age.
Rafsanjani delivered crucial support for the eventual winner, Hassan Rohani, a moderate with whom he had a warm rapport.