Prominent Iranian dissident, religious scholar, dies at 55

After yearlong battle with cancer

Prominent religious scholar Ahmad Ghabel has passed away at Mashhad’s Ghaem hospital after a yearlong battle with cancer.

The dissident cleric’s death was initially reported by the semi-officialIlna news agency on 16 October. Ghabel’s family reacted to the report by saying that he was only brain-dead and that his heart was still beating. According to a statement by the family, Ghabel passed away on Monday 22nd of October.

Ghabel, a prominent disciple of the late dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, was jailed on numerous occasions throughout the years, primarily for his ardent criticism the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the doctrine of velayate faghih or Guardianship of the Jurist. He was also known for his views regarding Islamic law such as his critique of death by stoning and the strict Islamic dress code in force since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Ghabel was arrested again in December 2009 while attempting to leave the city of Mashhad in order to participate in the funeral ceremony of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. He was held in Vakilabad Prison for the next six months before being released on bail. After his release, the theologian spoke to various media outlets such as Voice of America about a massive number of unannounced executions in the prison. He was arrested once more after blowing the whistle on Iran’s execution binge.

In December 2010, he was sentenced to twenty months in prison, and was summoned to prison shortly afterwards.

While serving jail time, Ghabel was diagnosed with a brain tumour and began undergoing treatment. He was hospitalised again in June in order to receive treatment for shrapnel wounds he had suffered during the Iran-Iraq war.

On 6 October, while he was still on medical furlough, Ghabel’s conditioned worsened significantly and he was transferred to Mashhad’s Ghaem hospital under intensive care.

Ghabel leaves behind a daughter, Sara, and his wife Marzieh Pasdar.

Ghabel’s brother, Hadi, is also a dissident cleric and member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, Iran’s largest pro-reform party, which was outlawed in the aftermath of the widely disputed 2009 presidential elections. He spent over two years in prison and was released in 2010.

Ahmad Ghabel defrocked himself of clerical clothing after a special court for clergymen ruled in 2008 that his brother be stripped of his clerical vestments.

According to opposition website Kaleme, Ghabel’s sister passed away just days before he lost the battle to cancer.

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