Iran's Opposition Loses a Mentor But Gains a Martyr
TIME / Robin Wright

Grand Ayatullah Hossein Ali Montazeri was known as Iran's defiant cleric, first in challenging the autocratic rule of the Shah, and then later in confronting the very revolution he had helped foment. Now, the big question in Tehran is whether his sudden death of will catalyze a broader showdown between the regime and the opposition Green Movement.

Montazeri, who died at 87 in the holy city of Qom, was one of only a handful of grand ayatullahs in Shi'ite Islam. Having once been designated to succeed the revolution's founder, Grand Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini, as Supreme Leader, his outspoken criticism of the regime gave cover and legitimacy to the opposition Green Movement — and infuriated a theocracy ruled by his clerics of lesser rank. (Read about Montazeri in the top 10 players in Iran's power struggle.)

Following the disputed June 12 election, Montazeri publicly questioned the victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and warned Iran's security forces that they would have to answer to God for their actions against protestors. In a soul-searching letter to Iran's clerics and seminaries, Montazeri recently stated: "The goal (of the revolution) was not simply to change the names and slogans but keep the same oppression and abuses practiced by the previous regime. Everyone knows I am ... >>>

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