Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the most influential figures in Iran since the Islamic revolution and a driving force for reform, has died at the age of 82 after suffering an apparent heart attack, state media reported Sunday.
Though his power had waned since he served two terms as president from 1989 to 1997, Rafsanjani retained significant clout on the Assembly of Experts that will choose a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is 77 and has been treated for prostate cancer. Rafsanjani’s absence also could have an impact on presidential elections in May, when President Hassan Rouhani, who is considered a pragmatist, will seek reelection.
Rouhani, a protege of Rafsanjani, reportedly rushed to the hospital in Tehran where Rafsanjani was taken Sunday morning. He was seen leaving in tears.
As president, Rafsanjani developed a reputation for being ruthless and brutal, and his critics charged he had a hand in the murder of numerous dissidents. Argentine prosecutors suspected Rafsanjani was among Iranian officials involved in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people. But in later years, he became known as a champion of reformists who were otherwise marginalized from power.