Ebrahim Raisi buried after days of mourning for Iranian president Soldiers carrying the coffin of late Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and other victims of the helicopter crash © Iranian Presidency/AFP/Getty Images

Iran’s late president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last weekend, was buried on Thursday after millions of mourners paid tribute during a three-day procession in five big cities.

The service took place in his home town of Mashhad, at an important shrine to one of the 12 revered imams of Shia Islam, Reza, which attracts more than 20mn pilgrims annually.

To be buried next to a holy site is considered a blessing for Iran’s Shia Muslims, one typically reserved for high-ranking religious or political figures.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had the previous day led a ceremony in Tehran for Raisi and the others who died in the crash, including foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian. He was also laid to rest on Thursday at a shrine in southern Tehran.

Foreign dignitaries who visited Iran to pay their respects to the deceased president included the Emir of Qatar, Iraq’s prime minister and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Under Raisi, Tehran restored ties with Riyadh after a seven-year rift and hoped to fully restore diplomatic relations with Egypt after more than four decades.

Other senior figures from the Axis of Resistance, the group of Iran-backed militias fighting against the US and Israel, which includes Hamas in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hizbollah, have visited to offer their condolences to Iranian leaders.

The Tasnim news agency, which is close to the elite Revolutionary Guard, reported on Thursday that a session was held in Tehran with top commander Major General Hossein Salami and Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, who oversees the corps’ overseas operations.

“The latest political, social and military situation in Gaza and the role of the Axis of Resistance were discussed, while emphasising the continuation of the fighting until victory in Palestine with the participation of all resistance groups,” the report said.

Khamenei has named first vice-president Mohammad Mokhber as the head of the executive branch of government ahead of an emergency presidential election to be held on June 28. Iran’s political factions have begun jostling for position ahead of a vote that is expected to be a contest between hardliners, with little indication that moderate or reformist figures will be permitted to stand.

Hardline contenders speculated to be in the running include Mokhber, parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani. Ali Larijani, a conservative former speaker of parliament close to moderate forces, could be included if the regime decides to allow others into the race. The process of registering candidates begins next week.

None of Iran’s former presidents were invited to the Raisi ceremony despite sending their condolences, as all have fallen out of favour with a regime that is increasingly tightening its inner circle in preparation for the succession to Khamenei, now 85.

Raisi had been regarded as a leading candidate to replace the supreme leader. Ahmad Alamolhoda, the deceased president’s father-in-law, is the powerful leader of Friday prayers in Mashhad and Raisi had previously been custodian of the shrine where he is now buried. The holy site operates almost like an independent state, with associated business trusts as well as extensive lands and properties donated by Shia Iranians.

– Financial Times

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