Iran’s first president after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Abolhassan Banisadr, died in a Paris hospital on Saturday aged 88, after decades of exile in France following his dismissal by parliament.
“After a long illness, Abolhassan Banisadr died on Saturday at the (Pitie-)Salpetriere hospital” in southeast Paris, official IRNA news agency said, citing a source close to the former president.
His family in France confirmed his death.
“We would like to inform the honourable people of Iran and all the activists of independence and freedom that… Abolhassan Banisadr has passed away… after a long struggle with illness,” they said in a statement.
The family statement hailed Banisadr as someone who “defended freedoms.”
But he was slammed by Iran’s judiciary. “All these years, under the shadow of French and Western intelligence, he did not miss a beat to defame the people and the system of the Islamic republic,” said a statement published on its Mizan Online website.
Banisadr won Iran’s first free election in 1980 to become president hot on the heels of the previous year’s Islamic revolution.
But he was dismissed by the Iranian parliament in 1981 as his relations with late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini deteriorated. Since then, he had been living in exile in France.
‘Khomeini’s spiritual son’
Born on March 22, 1933 in a village near Hamadan in western Iran, Banisadr was a supporter of liberal Islam.
A practising Muslim, at the age of 17 he became active in the ranks of the National Front of Iran, the movement of nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadegh.
After studying theology, economics and sociology, Banisadr became a staunch opponent of the Shah’s regime.
Wanted by the police, he was forced to flee Iran in 1963 and settled in Paris. In 1970, he advocated the union of the Iranian opposition around Khomeini, who was exiled in Iraq at the time.
In October 1978, Khomeini went to France, and Banisadr became part of his inner circle, referring to him as “dear father.”
Banisadr would later express regret that he had not recognised Khomeini’s “taste for power.”