In Memorium: Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Rouhani

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran mourns the passing of Grand AyatollahMohammad Husseini Rouhani, who died under mysterious circumstances at hishome in Qom on Friday, July 25. His brother, Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani, whois based in Paris and is a member of the FDI Board, has accused the regimeof having poisoned him during a brief visit to the local hospital. On July30, he wrote to president-elect Mohammad Khatemi, urging him to allow aninternational team of medical forensic experts to exhume the body and performan autopsy to determine the true cause of death.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Rouhani was 77, and was in good health at thetime of his death. Since 1985, he has been placed under house arrest becauseof his silent opposition to the regime. Although there appeared to havebeen a respite in the harsh treatment meted out to him in recent months,the authorities marked their continued disapproval of him by refusing toallow him to be buried alongside his father in the Massoumah mausoleumin Qom, or for memorial services to be held in the Borujerdi mosque inQom. Instead, he was buried on Saturday, July 26, in the husseiniya attachedto his own house in Qom.

"My brother has become a martyr for his faith," Mehdi Rouhanisaid. "All Iran is in mourning for his death. He was standing againsta regime that is abusing Shiism for political purposes that have nothingto do with religion. That is why they were afraid of him. They always fearedthat a supreme religious figure, respected by the people, would condemnthem as un-Islamic. Through his silence, that is what my brother did."

Mehdi Rouhani says he was offered proof of a plot to kill his brothertwo years ago, by a senior member of the regime's security forces who approachedhim in Paris. "He said he could obtain documents to prove that Khamene'ihad approved the plan to eliminate my brother. He offered to interveneto stop the plot, if I would pay him $100,000. Obviously, I couldn't paysuch a sum. So I immediately contacted members of my brother's entourage,and warned them to take extra measures to increase his security."Rouhani said regime agents have prevented him from speaking directly tohis brother by phone for years.

The allegation of a regime plot could have widespread repercussionsinside Iran's Shiite clergy, where Ayatollah Mohammad Rouhani was well-respectedas a quietest "who believed the clergy should not get involved inpolitics," his brother said. "He was totally opposed to the notionof clerical rule (Velayat-e faghih), and wrote this in many books beforethe Revolution. The regime was aware of that, and knew he had a wide following.They always interpreted his silence as condemnation."

FDI joins Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani in demanding that the Tehran authoritiesauthorize a team of internationally recognized forensic experts to conductan autopsy in keeping with Islamic traditions, to determine the true natureof Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Rouhani's death. Indeed, the regime has nothingto lose by approving such a gesture. Not to allow a thorough, credibleinvestigation of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Rouhani's death will only fuelthe fires of suspicion that the regime is continuing its campaign againstthe traditional Shiite clergy in Iran.

FDI joins Mehdi Rouhani in extending our condolences to Grand AyatollahMohammad Rouhani's family.

The Foundation for Democracy in Iran is a private, non-profit corporationregistered in the State of Maryland. Contact: Kenneth R. Timmerman, ExecutiveDirector. Tel: (301) 946-2918. Fax: (301) 942-5341. FDI materials, includingthe FDI Newswire, are available free-of-charge via the Internet at