Ex-Iranian President Rafsanjani's funeral draws hundreds of thousands

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 10, 2017 at 10:54 AM
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TEHRAN, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Several hundred thousand mourners attended the funeral Tuesday of Iran's former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

A sea of mourners could be seen on national television around the Tehran University campus, where the ceremony took place. Free bus transportation was provided to the funeral venue and Tuesday was declared a national holiday.

Visible were black banners and posters that showed the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and Rafsanjani smiling together. One read: "Goodbye, old combatant."

Khamenei led the prayers and kneeled before Rafsanjani's metal coffin, which had his white cleric's turban on top of it.

Senior political, military and religious figures from reformist and hardline camps attended the funeral. Participants included current President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, and hard-liner Qassem Soleimani, who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force.

Rafsanjani, a moderate president from 1989 to 1997, died of a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 82.

Mohammad Khatami, a reformist leader and Rafsanjani's successor from 1997-2005, was banned from attending Tuesday's event, Al Jazeera reported.

Some mourners chanted Khatami's name, and state television turned up the background music on its live broadcast. Iranian media are banned from mentioning Khatami's name or publishing photographs of him.

Rafsanjani will be buried in the mausoleum of his ally, the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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