Leader of the opposition party the Freedom Movement of Iran who was sentenced to eight years in jail

Ebrahim Yazdi, who has died aged 86, was a longstanding member, and from 1995 leader, of the Iranian opposition party the Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI). The FMI was founded in 1961 by Mehdi Bazargan, the champion of Islamic modernism in Iran, who became Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s first prime minister after the Islamic revolution of 1979 that overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Yazdi influenced the early policies of the Islamic revolution but, as a moderating force within it, lost ground to the hardliners who increasingly won Khomeini’s support. The FMI was soon suppressed by the new regime, but the party continued to be tolerated and has not been banned even to this day.

Yazdi first rose to prominence in 1978 as a close associate of the exiled Khomeini and presented the Ayatollah to the western media not as a fundamentalist, but as a constitutionalist who, once back in Tehran, would step back from power to make way for liberal democracy. Some suspected that Khomeini was exploiting the democratic credentials of the FMI and its leaders to delude the west into believing that he genuinely sought a western-style democracy.

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