Iran's Ali Khamenei (L) and Hashemi Rafsanjani. Undated

Former President Rafsanjani's Son Suggests He May Have Been Murdered

Saturday, 01/15/2022

Mohsen Hashemi, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s son, has called his father's death in 2017 "suspicious".

Rafsanjani who started his career in 1979 as an aide to Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic held high offices until his death. He was the Speaker of Iran's parliament (1980-1989), became Iran's president (1989-1997) and was the Chairman of the country's Expediency Council (1989-2017), and the Assembly of Experts (2007-2011).

According to official reports he died of a heart attack while swimming in a pool in northern Tehran on January 8, 2017, after his bodyguards took him to a nearby hospital. He was 82 and suffering from diabetes at the time of his death.

In an interview published by reformist Etemad Online website on January 15, Mohsen Hashemi said that it was Islamic Republic's policy to say that his father died of natural causes. He added that the investigation carried out by the Supreme Council of National Security into Rafsanjani's death was "superficial".

This was the first time Mohsen Hashemi was speaking about his father's death to the media while his siblings have always insisted that Rafsanjani was "killed." According to commentator Mohammad Rahbar, who spoke to Iran International TV, the reason for Mohsen's silence during the past four years was that he held official positions and did not want to compromise his future, but now that he is holding no office, he has decided to disclose what he knows about his father's death.

Mohsen Hashemi in front of a portrait of his father.

Mohsen Hashemi, however, threaded carefully during the interview. He cautiously said that there is still no evidence to prove his father was killed, nor there is any evidence about a natural death. He said that there was no water in his lungs, which meant he did not drown. He added the family was never given access to CCTV footage. The fact that doctors at the hospital said he was "nearly" dead when he was brought in, was also "suspicious".

One of Rafsanjani's daughters, Fatemeh, had said in 2018 that the towel wrapped around her father's body was contaminated with radioactive material. Rafsanjani had reportedly told former IRGC commander and Supreme Leader Khamenei's military adviser General Yaya Rahim Safavi that he knew about a plot to kill him.

Rafsanjani had played a pivotal role in getting Ali Khamenei elected as Supreme Leader in 1989, but their relationship deteriorated by 2009. Rafsanjani was seen as an influential figure and possibly a threat to Khamenei’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

Mohsen Hashemi said in the interview that contrary to usual protocols, on the day of his death Rafsanjani was not accompanied by a medical team that usually went everywhere with him in an ambulance. But Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, the health minister at the time, said Rafsanjani did not want the medical team to accompany him.

Hashemi also said that he has spoken to Khamenei and IRGC Intelligence Chief about a possible assassination attempt, but he was told that such a hypothesis was nonsense.

He added that against Rafsanjani's will, the IRGC had replaced the former President's bodyguards. He also accused an unnamed IRGC member of an arson in Rafsanjani's office in 2013.

Iran analyst Mehdi Mahdavi Azad told Iran International TV that "There is very little new information in the interview. His sisters had very openly talked about a murder plot." He added that "It is difficult to make a definite judgment based on the evidence available, but we are talking about a government under whose jurisdiction there have been so many suspicious murders. This is a government whose Intelligence Ministry officials have confessed to committing political murders in the past."

Mahdavi Azad concluded that "Based on the Islamic Republic's background, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani may have been killed, particularly because his death happened at a time Khamenei was perceiving him as a threat. Based on evidence, one can say that Rafsanjani's death was a murder on behalf of the ruling faction and Ali Khamenei."

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