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by Chris Bodenner

Scott Lucas reacts to the passing of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died in his sleep this morning:

Montazeri, 87, was one of the most prominent clerics in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the 1980s he was the designated successor to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, until he was sidelined because of political and religious divisions and a falling-out with Khomeini. Ayatollah Khameini eventually became Supreme Leader. Montazeri was isolated and then placed under house arrest after clashes with Khamenei.

In recent months, Montazeri was one of the most vocal supporters of the opposition movement, going as far as to criticise the legimitacy of the Supreme Leader. ... On 11 December, the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran named Montazeri as its Human Rights Activist of the Year. In his acceptance speech, Montazeri said, “None of those [aggressive actions by the Iranian Government] are legal.”

Masoud discusses the implications for the protest movement:

It is significant that yesterday marked the first day of Moharram, the current holy month that has several consecutive days of mourning and public ceremonies. As with previous occasions, the opposition will no doubt exploit the ceremonies to launch political protests. Ashur, the most important day when Imam Hossein is mourned, falls on December 27th.

Montazeri's death just before this day has significant implications. While the regime may be glad to have one of its harshest critics gone, his death is only bound to lead to an enormous outpouring in the streets of Tehran next week. The demonstrations, in fact, may likely be the largest in months.

Picture dated 05 February 1989 shows Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri speaking on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution. Montazeri, the second most powerful man in Iran until eight years ago, has become one of the Islamic Republic's leading dissidents and a catalyst of recent political unrest. (NORBERT SCHILLER/AFP/Getty Images)

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