Ayatollah Kani: Cleric who was championed by Ayatollah Khomeini and led the body which chooses Iran's Supreme Leader


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The Independent Online

Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani was a cleric who headed Iran's most influential clerical body charged with choosing or dismissing the nation's Supreme Leader. Kani was the chairman of the Assembly of Experts, a body of 86 senior clerics that monitors the Supreme Leader and picks a successor after his death. That makes it potentially one of the most powerful institutions in Iran, although it does not involve itself in the daily affairs of state.

The Assembly of Experts has only once picked a supreme leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution – in 1989, when it chose Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to succeed his late mentor, Ayatollah Khomeini. Kani had been chairman of the Assembly since 2011, after his predecessor, former President Rafsanjani, was forced out after a dispute with hard-line clerics. Kani also served as acting prime minister and interior minister in the '80s; a moderate conservative, he backed Hassan Rouhani in his successful bid for the presidency in 2013.

Kani was born in the village of Kan, near Tehran, in 1931, the son of an Ayatollah. He left for Qom in 1947 to study at a seminary, where his teachers included Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the revolution. He became an opponent of the Shah's regime at 18 and in the early 1960s returned to Tehran to continue his fight. Before the Islamic Revolution he was appointed by Khomeini to the Revolutionary Council and later took up various positions. He was leader of the Combatant Clergy Association and chief of the committee in charge of trials and executions of the Shah's civil and military officials. He had been in a coma since June after suffering heart failure.

Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani, cleric: born Kan, Iran 6 August 1931; died Tehran 21 October 2014.