TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s ex-president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an influential figure in the theocratic government for nearly three decades, died Sunday aged 82 because of a cardiac arrest, Iran state TV announced.
He was one of the founders of the Islamic Republic of Iran, supported by then supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who made him the acting commander-in-chief during the last year of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
It was widely believed he was able to convince Khomeini to accept a United Nations resolution and end the war.
Rafsanjani was president from 1989 to 1997 and established himself as a pragmatic ruthless politician, also known for his immense wealth.
He was criticized by Iranians and the international community for corruption and for killing dissidents.
In 1997, a German court concluded the highest levels of Iran’s political leadership had ordered the killing of four exiled Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin five years earlier.
The main victim who was assassinated in 1991 in Mykonos was then leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) Sadeq Sharafkandi.
His predecessor Abdulrahman Ghassemlou was killed three years earlier in Vienna while negotiating with Iranian agents.
Argentina also accused Rafsanjani and other senior Iranian politicians of complicity in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires where 85 people died.
The events added weight to American assertions Iran was a sponsor of terrorism.
Rafsanjani ran for the third time in 2005 but lost to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Since his defeat, he became critical of hardliners and reshaped his image as a supporter of what is known as “reform” in Iran.
However, so-called reformists are also clergies and officials approved by the theocratic government.
They are known for championing moderate causes such as the nuclear deal that lifted sanctions in return for limiting the country’s nuclear activities.
Rafsanjani was a supporter of Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani, who is preparing himself for a second election.