Top Iranian Dissident Montazeri Dies Cleric had been in line to succeed supreme leader, fell from favor By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Dec 20, 2009 6:19 AM CST 11 comments Comments Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, Iran's onetime heir apparent who fell from favor and spent five years under house arrest, speaks in this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008 file photo. (HASAN SARBAKHSHIAN) (Newser) – Iran's most senior dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who emerged as the spiritual father of its reform movement, died in his sleep overnight. He was 87. Once slated to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Montazeri instead led the charge in accusing the country's ruling Islamic establishment of imposing dictatorship in the name of Islam—criticism he kept up following June's disputed presidential election, making him a hero to the opposition. Montazeri spent five years under house arrest in the late '90s for denouncing current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as unqualified to rule. Khamenei has been a particular target of the opposition since June, and pro-government figures had lately tried to reduce Montazeri's impact by spreading reports that he had become senile. The official IRNA news agency issued a two-line report on Montazeri's death, and state media were equally terse.