Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, 97; exiled publisher of Iranian newspapers

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Exiled Iranian newspaper publisher Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, who founded one of the Middle East's largest newspaper groups, has died. He was 97.

Mesbahzadeh died Nov. 24 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla after a bout with pneumonia, said his son, Parviz.

"While my dad was still healthy, he was active in all the aspects of his life, from politics to journalism," his son told the Associated Press.

In 1942, Mesbahzadeh founded the Kayhan newspaper in Iran. It became the pillar of the Kayhan Publishing Group, which grew to include national dailies published in Farsi and English as well as a women's magazine, sports magazine and children's weekly.

From the start, Kayhan was seen as more independent than Iran's other newspaper, and Mesbahzadeh was known as a critic of the Islamic regime.

His most distinguished achievement, according to the Iran Press Syndicate, was the creation of a university of journalism in Iran that produced generations of Iranian journalists.

Before the fall of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi's regime, Mesbahzadeh left Iran in late 1978 and went to Paris with his family.

The Kayhan Group continued publishing until March 1979, after the Ayatollah Khomeini's return to Iran.

The Kayhan Group eventually was taken over by the new Islamic government, which continues to publish a conservative daily under the Kayhan name.

In 1983, Mesbahzadeh began publishing a weekly political newspaper from London under the name Kayhan London. The paper, written in Farsi and critical of the current Iranian government, will continue publication, its editors said in a letter.

Mesbahzadeh was born Dec. 18, 1908, in Tehran. He attended college in Beirut, and earned a doctorate in criminal law in 1936 from the Sorbonne in Paris.

In addition to his son, Mesbahzadeh is survived by his wife, Forough; and two other children, Iraj and Nazanin.

A public memorial service is scheduled Sunday at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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