TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A leading Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Mohammadreza Mahdavi Kani, who headed the country’s most influential clerical body charged with choosing or dismissing the nation’s supreme leader, has died. He was 83.
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 the daily affairs of state.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani declared two days of national mourning.
Kani held the top post at the Assembly of Experts since March 2011, after his predecessor, Iran’s influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was forced out following a dispute with hard-line clerics who backed then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Kani also served as acting prime minister and interior minister in the 80s.
He had been in a coma since June, after being hospitalized for heart failure.
Kani was considered a moderate conservative and had backed Rouhani in his bid for the presidency in 2013.
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, the Islamic Revolution patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Khani’s family said he will be buried on Thursday.