Prominent hardline Iranian ayatollah dies at 85

Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, one of the founding members of Iran's Islamic regime and a prominent member of the establishment, died Monday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported. He was 85 years old. Meshkini died at 4:30 p.m local time in a hospital in Teheran where he was hospitalized since early July, said his doctor Jaffar Aslani. State television said he died of lung infection. The ayatollah, or top ranking Shiite Muslim cleric, was the head of the Assembly of Experts, a government body that oversees Iran's Supreme Leader. The 86-member assembly can, in theory, reprimand or even dismiss the leader. Meshkini was a close associate of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whom he supported during the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the religious regime to power. The hardline cleric was among the proponents of the theory that the legitimacy of Iran's clerics to rule the country is derived from God, as opposed to pro-democracy reformers who believe the government's authority derives from popular elections.