Ex-president Rafsanjani laid to rest as thousands attend funeral

Tehran: Hundreds of thousands of mourners attended the funeral on Tuesday of Iran’s ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
It took more than two hours for the cortege to make its way through the crowds to the south Tehran mausoleum where Rafsanjani was laid to rest.
Pallbearers accidentally knocked the former president’s trademark white turban off the coffin as they carried it into the burial chamber at the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Rafsanjani, who served as president from 1989 to 1997, was a father figure for Iran’s reformist camps.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led the eulogies to Rafsanjani at Tehran University.
President Hassan Rouhani attended the funeral so too did, parliament speaker Ali Larijani, and his brother, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani.
The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations division, Major General Qassem Suleimani, also attended.
Tehran prayer leader Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani passed out and had to be treated at the scene by Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, an ophthalmologist by training, Iranian media reported.
Former president Mohammad Khatami was not part of the official delegation.
Rafsanjani’s son Mohsen invited people to attend the service “in full tranquility”. “Ayatollah Rafsanjani’s concern was unity… and we should show off our unity to the world,” he said on Monday.
Black banners were raised in Tehran and some posters showed the supreme leader and Rafsanjani together smiling. Another poster said “good bye, old combatant”.
Since Rafsanjani’s death, messages of condolence have poured in both from at home and abroad.
Even the White House sent a message, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that led to cutting of ties between Tehran and Washington.
“Former president Rafsanjani was a prominent figure throughout the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States sends our condolences to his family and loved ones,” spokesman Josh Ernest said.
“He was a consequential figure inside Iran. But you know, for what potential impact this could have on Iranian policy, I wouldn’t speculate.”
Tuesday was declared a public holiday in Iran and all public transport in Tehran was free for the day.
Rafsanjani headed the Expediency Council, a key advisory and arbitration body. — AFP