NewsSpecial WireIran hostage-takers’ leader becomes head of political group

Iran hostage-takers’ leader becomes head of political group

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Aug. 28 – A once firebrand Shiite cleric who acted as the leader of radical Islamist students who seized the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979 was appointed on Sunday to head the Militant Clerics Association. Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Aug. 28 – A once firebrand Shiite cleric who acted as the leader of radical Islamist students who seized the United States embassy in Tehran in 1979 was appointed on Sunday to head the Militant Clerics Association.

The reclusive Mohammad Moussavi Khoeiniha was elected unanimously by members of the group, which is exclusively made up of Shiite clergymen, as its new secretary-general.

The Militant Clerics Association was formed in 1987, when two dozen Shiite clerics broke away from the Association of Militant Clergy, accusing the latter of failing to follow the radical policies advocated by Ayatollah Khomeini. The breakaway group’s principal figures included Mohammad Khatami and Mehdi Karrubi. Khatami became President in 1997 and Karrubi became Speaker of Iran’s parliament.

Sunday’s meeting was chaired by Khatami.

Khoeiniha was the leader of the group “Students Following the Line of the Imam” which led the 1979 takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

In the introduction to an interview with Khoeyniha in July 2000, Time wrote, “Twenty years ago, Seyed Mohammed Mousavi Khoeiniha gave the go-ahead for the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran by militant Islamic students. The resulting hostage crisis went on to define the Islamic Revolution, and Khoeiniha’s influence helped consolidate the clerical rule that followed the Shah’s overthrow in 1979”.

Khoeiniha was Iran’s Chief Revolutionary Prosecutor in 1988, when thousands of political prisoners were massacred in the country’s prisons.

After losing an internal power struggle within the clerical leadership, Khoeiniha shed his firebrand image and, like other members of the Militant Clerics Association, became self-styled moderates.

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