© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr attends an interview with Reuters in Versailles, near Paris, France, on January 31, 2019. REUTERS / Philippe Wojazer / File Photo
PARIS (Reuters) – Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who became Iran’s first president after the 1979 Islamic revolution before fleeing into exile in France, died on Saturday at the age of 88.
He died at the Pitie-Salpetriere hospital in Paris after a long illness, his wife and children said on the official Bani-Sadr website.
Bani-Sadr had emerged from obscurity to become Iran’s first president in January 1980 with the help of the Islamic clergy.
But after a power struggle with radical clergymen, he fled the following year to France, where he spent the rest of his life.
In announcing the death, his family said on their website that Bani-Sadr had “defended freedom in the face of a new tyranny and oppression in the name of religion.”
His family would like to be buried in Versailles, the Paris suburb where he lived during his exile, his longtime assistant Paknejad Jamaledin told Reuters by phone.
In an interview with Reuters in 2019, the former president said that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had betrayed the principles of the revolution after coming to power in 1979, adding that this had left a “very bitter” taste among some of those who had returned with him to Tehran in triumph.
Bani-Sadr then recalled how, 40 years earlier, in Paris, he was convinced that the religious leader’s Islamic revolution would pave the way for democracy and human rights after the rule of the Shah.
“We were sure that a religious leader was committing himself and that all these principles would happen for the first time in our history,” he said in the interview.
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