Iranians Pay Last Respects To Former President Rafsanjani

Iran has begun three days of mourning for former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who died on January 8 of a heart attack at the age of 82.

President Hassan Rohani and his administration on January 9 paid respects to Rafsanjani at northern Tehran's Jamaran prayer hall, where Rafsanjani's body was laid out.

The mosque is on the grounds of the former residence of Islamic republic founder Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini.

Other mourners paying respects to Rafsanjani at the Jamaran prayer hall on January 9 included Rafsanjani's family members -- some of whom wept at the sight of his coffin and reached out to touch it.

Meanwhile, Iranians from all walks of life across Iran were expressing grief over his death a day before his January 10 burial.

The date has been declared a public holiday in Iran.

Rafsanjani, who served as Iran's president from 1989 until 1997, also headed Iran's Expediency Council -- a body that is intended to resolve disputes between the parliament and powerful clerics on the unelected Guardians Council.

Rafsanjani was also a member of the Assembly of Experts -- Iran's top clerical body, charged with appointing, and if required dismissing, the country's supreme leader.

He had been regarded as a "pragmatic conservative" who was open to improving ties with the West.

Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told RFE/RL that Rafsanjani was at least "aware" of "many human rights tragedies" and abuses in Iran during his presidency.

"Therefore, his human rights records are by no means positive," Ebadi said.

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