Adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei becomes first senior Iranian official to die from coronavirus as opposition group claims death toll is TEN times higher than official figures

Monday, March 2, 2020
By Paul Martin

Adviser Mohammad Mirmohammadi died aged 71 in a Tehran hospital today
He was a member of the Expediency Council which is hand-picked by Khamenei
Regime says 66 have died but opposition group NCRI claims death toll is 650

By TIM STICKINGS and JACK ELSOM
DAILYMAIL.COM
2 March 2020

An adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has become the first senior Iranian official to be killed by coronavirus after he died at a Tehran hospital today.

Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of the Expediency Council which is hand-picked by the Supreme Leader, died aged 71 after falling sick with the virus.

He is one of several regime members to have caught the virus, after vice president Masoumeh Ebtekar – known in the West for her role as ‘Screaming Mary’ in the 1979 hostage crisis – and visibly struggling health minister Iraj Harirchi were also infected.

It comes as the Iranian regime was accused of ‘endangering the lives of Iranians and the world’ after alarming videos of worshippers licking a shrine emerged online.

There are also fears that Iran is covering up the true scale of the crisis, with official figures showing a suspiciously high death rate – suggesting there may be more infections than the regime is willing to admit.

Iran today confirmed 12 more deaths, taking the total to 66, but one opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has claimed that the death toll is as high as 650 – nearly ten times the official count.

State media announced Mirmohammadi’s death this morning in the virus’s most direct blow to the regime so far.

The Expediency Council which he sat on advises the Ayatollah and helps to settle disputes between the Supreme Leader and the Iranian parliament.

Iran has officially announced 1,501 cases and 66 deaths, after 523 new infections and 12 extra fatalities were reported today.

But the resulting death rate of 4.4 per cent is much higher than the global two per cent, sparking concern that there may in fact be far more infections than that.

The opposition NCRI, which is exiled in Paris and fiercely opposed to the regime, claims that the death toll is now as high as 650, citing its own figures.

Shahin Gobadi, a spokesman for the group, claimed that the death toll included 150 fatalities in the capital Tehran and a similar number in the holy city of Qom. The NCRI’s claims are unverified.

Journalist Masih Alinejad, who tweeted the worrying clips of people licking the shrine in Qom, said that by keeping the religious sites open the regime was ‘endangering the lives of Iranians and the world’.

Footage shows people licking the doors and burial mound inside the Fatima Masumeh shrine in Qom, a common practice which has continued despite token warnings from the health ministry.

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