Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-liner who was seen as a potential successor to the country's aging supreme leader, died in a helicopter crash, Iranian state media reported on Monday.

Iranian state-run media announced Raisi's death in a post on Monday, along with the deaths of Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other government officials who were aboard the helicopter.

State-run media gave no immediate cause for the crash. However, the helicopter the group was traveling in crashed in foggy conditions in a mountainous area in the northwest of the country near the border with Azerbaijan. Raisi had taken part in a ceremony to inaugurate a dam with the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

Bad weather hindered rescuers in their attempts to find the downed helicopter.

As the son of a cleric from Iran's second-largest city, Mashhad, Raisi attended a seminary school from the age of 15 and took part in protests against the Western-backed Shah of Iran, who was toppled in the 1979 revolution that installed the theocratic regime under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Before becoming president in 2021, the ultraconservative had been the head of the judiciary.

A year after assuming the presidency, he ordered a crackdown on women's dress codes. That led to the arrest of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, whose headscarf had not properly covered her hair, in line with the country's "hijab and chastity" law. Amini's death in custody sparked nationwide protests that resulted in hundreds of deaths, according to human rights groups, and were seen as one of the most serious threats to the Islamic regime since it came to power in the 1979 revolution.

Since those protests died down, the regime has recently launched a new crackdown on women's dress codes, which human rights group Amnesty International has described as a "war on women."

Raisi was known for his part in 1988 extrajudicial killings

The brutal repression of the protests was not the first time Raisi had been accused of ruthlessly crushing dissent. Rights groups have said that as a young prosecutor in 1988, he sat on what became known as "death committees" which ordered the execution of political prisoners.

Raisi sat on the panel in Tehran, which rights groups say ordered the execution of hundreds of enemies of the Islamic regime: Amnesty International estimates that nationwide, around 5,000 people were put to death.

"Raisi is a pillar of a system that jails, tortures and kills people for daring to criticize state policies," Hadi Ghaemi, the director of New York-based advocacy group the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), told Reuters.

Raisi was running for president in 2016 when a tape leaked of an important cleric talking of his role in the 1988 killings. Raisi lost the election a year later to Hassan Rouhani, a less hard-line candidate.

In 2019, when he was appointed head of the judiciary, the United States imposed sanctions on Raisi for human rights violations, including for the executions in the 1980s.

As a protege of the country's supreme leader, Raisi had been seen as a potential successor for the top position, along with Khamenei's own son Mojtaba.

While the cause of Sunday's crash was not immediately known, Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said on X that in "Iran's conspiratorial political culture few will believe Raisi's death was accidental."

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