Hard-line Iran cleric, ex-president's supporter, dies at 85

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, a prominent hard-liner and supporter of the country's ex-president, died on Friday, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. He was 85.

The cleric was known as a backer of former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who questioned the Holocaust and claimed there were no gays or lesbians in Iran. Ahmadinejad was succeeded in 2013 by Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate.

The report said Yazdi had recently been in hospital for a month due to an unspecified gastrointestinal illness but was then released to continue treatment at home in the Iranian holy city of Qom, which is home to major Shiite seminaries. A few days ago, he took a turn for the worse and was transferred to a hospital in the capital, Tehran, IRNA said.

No further details were provided.

He was also a senior member of the country’s Assembly of Experts, an all-clerical body that will someday choose the successor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Funeral arrangements were not immediately known. Most Iranian clerics are buried in Qom.