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Prominent Iranian cleric, dissident, dies

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QOM, Iran, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a leading figure in Iran's 1979 revolution, has died at his home in Qom at age 87, his family said.

Montazeri died Saturday night of natural causes, his son, Amad Montazeri, told the Iranian Labor News Agency Sunday.

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Born in Najafabad, Montazeri was an early supporter of the Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic revolution, and was arrested and tortured for leading protests against the Iranian monarchy in the 1970s.

A prominent Shiite cleric, Montazeri once was designated to succeed Khomeini, the ILNA said. But Montazeri and Khomeini clashed over Iran's human rights record in 1989 and Montazeri was relieved of his posts and placed under house arrest for six years.

He spent the rest of his life teaching and working from his home on his religious writings, Iran's government-run Press TV said.

In recent years, Montazeri had been a vocal critic of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supported claims that Ahmadinejad's 2009 re-election bid was rigged.

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