By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Abolhassan Banisadr, who was elected Iran’s first president after the 1979 revolution and later fled the country and became an outspoken opponent of the theocratic government, has died. He was 88.
A statement issued by his family said Banisadr died October 9 in a Paris hospital and had been suffering from a long illness. No further details were released.
Banisadr served as Iran’s president during the 444-day crisis when 52 Americans were held hostage by radical college students. And he was the first to be impeached by the country’s parliament after 16 months in office.
Born in the western city of Hamadan on March 22, 1933, Banisadr studied finance at the Sorbonne in Paris after World War II. His father was a cleric who was close to Ayatollah Khomeini, who later led the Islamic Revolution that toppled Iran’s monarchy.
Banisadr reportedly first met Khomeini at the funeral for Banisadr’s father in 1972.
Banisadr was active in underground student movements in Iran opposed to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government and was imprisoned twice. While living in France, he joined the religious movement inspired by Khomeini and then returned to Iran in February 1979 with Khomeini one month after Pahlavi fled the country.
He served as finance minister and foreign minister in the new theocratic government before being elected president in February 1980.
A year later, Banisadr fell out with Khomeini, who as supreme leader, retained ultimate authority in the country.
Iran’s parliament impeached Banisadr on June 21, 1981, as he sought to rein in the influence of clerics on the country’s judicial system.
Banisadr fled back to France where he co-founded the National Council of the Resistance of Iran, and became an outspoken opponent of the Tehran government, accusing Khomeini and his successors of being responsible for the violence in the Middle East.
He also condemned the government’s crackdown on protesters after the 2009 presidential election that was won by the hard-line Mahmud Ahmadinejad and sparked the opposition Green Movement.
In an interview with RFFE/RL’s Radio Farda in 2019, on the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, Banisadr broadly criticized the Iranian regime and its conduct of elections.
“Not only are elections in Iran not free, but they also humiliate voters, because there is neither freedom to run nor freedom to vote,” he said.
He also said that the collapse of the Iranian regime was “inevitable.”
Banisadr is survived by his wife, Ozra Hosseini, whom he married in 1961, and three children.
No funeral arrangements were announced.