Saturday , July 13 2024

Thousands mourn Iran’s President in Tabriz procession


TEHRAN/ TABRIZ: Iranians have gathered in Tabriz, the capital of the East Azerbaijan province, to mourn at a farewell procession for President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six other people in the helicopter, including crew members, were also killed in the crash.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of mourners, waving Iranian flags and portraits of the late president, set out from a central square in the northwestern city where Raisi was headed when his helicopter crashed.

Reporting from the capital, Tehran, journalist Resul Serdar said on Tuesday that funeral ceremonies for Iranian state dignitaries occur over “an extended period of time in several locations”.

After the procession in Tabriz, the bodies of Raisi, 63 and Amirabdollahian, 60, will be transferred to Tehran for another ceremony.

Before that Serdar said that later on Tuesday the bodies would be taken to Qom, a city in central Iran of great religious significance, for another ceremony and then moved to the capital.

On Wednesday, a larger ceremony will take place in Tehran, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expected to lead the prayers and foreign dignitaries in attendance.

Raisi’s body will then be taken to Mashhad, the country’s second largest city located in the northeast, where he had been born and raised.

Organizers in Mashhad said they are planning a “glorious” burial on Thursday for Raisi in the holy city.

Reporting on the continuing investigation into the cause of the crash, Serdar said that, currently, there has been no suggestion that it was an act of sabotage, with the focus on the extreme weather conditions at the time, combined with challenging terrain and possible technical issues.

Questions have been raised as to whether Raisi and the others on board should have been travelling on a two-blade Bell 212 believed to have been decades old.

Foreign sanctions on Iran dating back to the 1979 revolution, and subsequently over its nuclear program and its backing of the so-called “axis of resistance”, have made it difficult for the country to obtain aircraft parts or new aircraft.

Serdar said questions have also been raised as to why the aircraft was allowed to take off in adverse weather conditions which included a thick layer of fog.

State television announced his death in a report early on Monday. The bodies of the president and others who died in the crash had been recovered and search operations had ended, the Iranian Red Crescent also confirmed.

Killed alongside the president and the foreign minister were provincial officials, members of his security team and flight crew.

Raisi, 63, was a hardline cleric and his election as president in 2021 consolidated the control of conservatives over every part of the Islamic Republic.

State media has said elections will be held on 28 June to choose a new president.

In the meantime, Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber has been appointed to assume interim duties.

Raisi flew to the far north-western province of East Azerbaijan on Sunday morning for the inauguration of the Qiz Qalasi and Khoda Afarin dams, a joint hydroelectric power project with neighboring Azerbaijan on the Aras River.

He was joined at the ceremony by Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a “friendly farewell” before the helicopter departed the dam area and flew towards the city of Tabriz, about 130km (80 miles) to the south.

Raisi had been scheduled to inaugurate a project at the Tabriz oil refinery.

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