His father was a Grand Ayatollah once tipped to succeed the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ruhollah Khomeini as the next Supreme Leader.
Yet on Monday, May 27, Saeed Montazeri found himself writing to the current Supreme Leader to complain about persistent attacks against the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.
In an open letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he said: “10 years after my father's passing, one-sided propaganda attack against him is still underway in full force”.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who died in 2009, fell out with Ayatollah Khomeini over the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 – this did away with his chances of taking Khomeini’s place after his death, as was the plan.
Despite practically living under house arrest after his forced resignation, Montazeri remained politically influential in Iran. To many in the higher echelons of the Shia clergy, he was the Grand Marja – or “source of emulation”.
For more than a decade, Ayatollah Montazeri was one of the leading critics of the Islamic Republic’s national and foreign policy. He was also outspoken in his views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri had also been an active advocate of Baha’i rights, civil rights, and women’s rights in Iran.
Montazeri, an early adopter of technology as Shia giants go, dropped a political bombshell by publishing his memoirs on his personal website in 2001.
His son complained in his letter that a decade after his death, the Ayatollah’s book of diaries is still banned in Iran, while scores of books have been published, and TV shows and documentaries aired to discredit its contents.
Saeed, a mid-ranking cleric, said: “Attacking my father has been going on incessantly in the past decade by presenting irrational and ludicrous remarks or citing others’ baseless comments”.
Addressing Khamenei directly, he added: “In the latest case of discrediting my father, an individual has expressed something that might consequentially involve your eminence, as well.”
Montazeri elaborated: “The individual in question has introduced himself as a person with an important responsibility at a center for documentation and recording history.”
The letter went on: “This individual had been charged with a heinous immoral act and should his friends at Special Clerical Court not have helped him and cover it up, he would not have been spared under the ruling of the law and Shari’a.”
It is believed that Montazeri was referring to the cleric Rouhollah Hosseinian, the head of the Islamic Revolution Document Center.
In an interview circulated in April, Hosseinian claimed that in a gathering in the 1980s, attended by Ayatollah Khamenei and prominent religious figures, Khomeini had remarked that “Montazeri is not only corrupt, but he also corrupts the scholars he trains.”
Saeed Montazeri has protested that his late father's religious center is still sealed off after 22 years and is currently on the verge of collapse.
Saeed referring to his own solitary confinement in 2000 and 2001, complained that “members of the Montazeri household, even the ones without any problem with the regime, are banned from traveling abroad”.
Khamenei, who was taught by Montazeri in 1960s and 70s, is not known to be a fan of his former teacher.
In 2009 Ayatollah Montazeri strongly criticized Khamenei’s decision-making and argued that revering the post of Supreme Leader was like worshipping multiple gods – a mortal sin in Islam.
He added that, to claim legitimacy, that postholder requires widespread genuine support among the people.
Ayatollah Montazeri claimed that Khamenei’s leadership was more military than Islamic.
In a 2008 interview with the Voice of America Montazeri said the 1979 “revolution had given Islam a bad name”. He added: “Unfortunately, it is only by name that the revolution remains Islamic.”