The New York Times for 24 December 2009 has a good editorial on the legacy of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the leading dissident Iranian cleric who died last weekend at his home in Qom, aged 87.
The key paragraphs of the editorial are:
When he died last weekend at the age of 87, Ayatollah Montazeri had spent most of the last two decades arguing that the clerical establishment in Tehran had abandoned the revolution’s core principles. He helped found the Islamic republic with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and was expected to succeed him as supreme leader — until he fell out of favor for objecting to a wave of executions of political prisoners in 1988.
Ayatollah Montazeri continued to issue religious edicts that advocated reform and human rights and tried to reconcile Islam with democracy. After President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent election last June, the cleric sided with the opposition and argued that even in a religious state, legitimacy comes from the people.
The regime is growing more desperate at its inability to silence this internal challenge.
The full editorial may be accessed here.