Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi passed away in a helicopter crash on Monday. According to the state-run media, no sign of life was witnessed at the site of the helicopter crash, which took place on Sunday.

A hard-line president, with massive support from Iran's clergy, Raisi has often been touted as a successor to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The helicopter carrying Raisi, foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollhian and 9 others crashed in the mountainous north-western region of Iran. State-run Mehr news reported that Raisi was ‘martyred’ while performing his duty for the people of Iran. Iran's cabinet has announced a five-day mourning period.

Condoling his death, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow. “Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise of Dr. Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. His contribution to strengthening the India-Iran bilateral relationship will always be remembered. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran. India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow,” writes PM Modi.

Notably, external affairs minister S Jaishankar has also condoled Raisi’s demise. “Deeply shocked to hear of the passing away of Iran’s President Dr Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister H. Amir-Abdollahian in the helicopter crash. Recall my many meetings with them, most recently in January 2024. Our condolences to their families. We stand with the people of Iran at time of this tragedy,” writes Jaishankar.

The hard-line president

Touted to be the hard-line president, Raisi’s presence has been one of the defining moments in Iranian politics. Backed by clergy, Raisi has been in the office since 2021. Prior to this, he contested the presidential elections against Hassan Rouhani in 2017 as well, but lost, leading to Rouhani's second term as President. He has also served as the Chief Justice of Iran in 2019. He has also served as the Deputy Chief of the 88-member Assembly of Experts, which chooses the next supreme leader after the departure of Khamenei.

Born in 1960, Raisi’s tenure in Iranian politics has been marred with controversies. Raisi, who has been under US sanctions since 2019, has been accused of extrajudicial executions including sham trials of political prisoners in 1988, according to rights groups including Amnesty International. Raisi was a member of the death commission—a four-member panel—which oversaw the execution of as many as 5,000 political prisoners through sham trials between 1990 to 1998—the eight-year-long period of Iran’s war against Iraq.

Raisi has also been a staunch supporter of Palestine’s resistance movement against Israel. In April, Raisi endorsed a large-scale attack on Israel, involving the launch of over 300 drones and missiles. This assault was a response to a suspected Israeli strike that had killed Iranian generals at their embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, marking an escalation in the ongoing covert conflict between the two nations. 

After Raisi’s death, Iran’s vice-president Mohmmad Mokhber has been named as the interim President.

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