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First Iranian President Abolhassan Banisadr dies (state media)

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Tehran (AFP)

Iran’s first president after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Abolhassan Banisadr, died in a Paris hospital on Saturday at the age of 88, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“After a long illness, Abolhassan Banisadr died on Saturday at the (Pitie-) Salpêtrière hospital” in the south-east of Paris, IRNA reported, citing a source close to the former president.

Banisadr was elected president in January 1980 in the wake of the Islamic revolution of the previous year.

But he was removed from his post by the Iranian parliament in 1981 after opposing the late supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Since then, he has been living in exile in France.

Born on March 22, 1933 in a village near Hamadan in western Iran, Banisadr was a supporter of liberal Islam.

A practicing Muslim, he was an activist from the age of 17 in the ranks of the National Front of Iran, the movement of nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadegh.

After studying theology, economics and sociology, Banisadr became one of the main opponents of the Shah’s regime.

Wanted by the police, he was forced to leave Iran in 1963 and moved to Paris. In 1970, he advocated the union of the Iranian opposition around Khomeini, exiled in Iraq.

In October 1978, Khomeini went to France and Banisadr became one of his close friends and advisers.

On February 1, 1979, Banisadr was on the plane bringing Khomeini back to Iran.

He was Iranian Minister of Economy and Foreign Affairs.

The man sometimes nicknamed “the spiritual son of Khomeini” was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran on January 26, 1980.

From the start of his mandate, Banisadr faced immense difficulties: the affair of the American hostages, the Iran-Iraq war, an economic crisis and, above all, the opposition of fundamentalist clerics.

As commander of the Iranian armed forces from February 1980 to June 1981, he reorganized the country’s military and spent much of his time on the front lines of the war with Iraq.

But a supporter of an “Islamic third way” respectful of democratic rule, he faced intense pressure from extremists.

After more than a year of disputes with some senior members of the Shiite clergy, the democratization process has come to a halt.

On June 21, 1981, Banisadr was removed from his post by parliament for “political incompetence” with Khomeini’s approval.

Banisadr then left Iran on July 29, 1981 in hiding aboard a military plane hijacked by one of his supporters. As soon as he arrived in France, he applied for and obtained political asylum.

In August 1981, he founded the National Council of Iranian Resistance (NCRI) with another leader in exile, Massoud Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mojahedin, who fled in the hijacked plane, but he left the organization less three years later.

He had been living in Versailles since May 1984.


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